Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Ultrasound technique for opening the blood-brain barrier to treat neurological disorders

Technology #2965

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Elisa Konofagou
Managed By
Satish Rao

Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are difficult to treat because most therapeutic compounds are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Focused ultrasound (FUS) can be used to activate microbubbles and cause cavitation, increasing the permeability of the BBB. While this method is effective, differences in skull thickness make the technique difficult to perform reliably and safely. This technology describes a system for transcranial analysis of the acoustic emissions that arise from the interaction between the microbubbles and the tissue. The resulting cavitation spectrum can be used to determine whether the opening was successful and whether there was any tissue damage. This noninvasive technique can be used to develop a safe and effective protocol for opening the BBB.

Real-time, noninvasive monitoring of blood-brain barrier opening

Currently, delivery of contrast agent followed by a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) is required to confirm whether the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is open. This technology allows for real-time monitoring of the BBB opening based on the collection of acoustic data during cavitation formation. If there is an obstruction, the ultrasound and microbubbles can be easily adjusted. Additionally, this cavitation data can allow for the monitoring of tissue damage during the process so a safe procedure can be developed. Safe, effective opening of the BBB has the potential to increase the range of drugs available to the brain.

This technique has been tested in vivo in monkeys and was able to confirm the opening of the blood-brain barrier without the use of MRI.

Lead Inventor:

Elisa E. Konofagou, Ph.D.


  • Real-time monitoring of blood-brain barrier opening with microbubbles by ultrasound
  • Could allow for the delivery of more kinds of drugs to the brain
  • Could be used in other tissues such as muscle, liver, and tumor tissues


  • Does not require an MRI to confirm opening of the blood-brain barrier
  • Shows obstructions in real time so the opening can be adjusted
  • Transcranial, noninvasive information gathering

Patent information:

Patent Pending (WO/2012/162664)

Tech Ventures Reference: IR 2965

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