Using bubbles to diagnose brain cancer?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are pioneering a noninvasive technique for diagnosing brain cancer. The key is to briefly open the blood-brain barrier to allow cancer biomarkers to be released into blood circulation for testing.

To open that barrier, the scientists are using microbubbles—tiny gas bubbles encased in a greasy shell. The bubbles are injected (in pigs; human trials are a ways off) and they find their way to the brain. Then researchers apply low-frequency ultrasound which cause the bubbles to pop, creating tiny tears in the barrier.

Lead researcher Hong Chen recently received a four-year $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help further the study.