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By John G. Webster (Editor)

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Their in vitro study evaluates the enhancing effect of a polar solvent (dimethylformamide or DMF, a potent anticancer drug too potent to be used alone, generally) on the destruction of leukemia cells caused by applying ultrasound in conjunction with contrast agents. 5 W/cm2 and total exposure times of 15 s. Cavitation was critical for the success of the ultrasound/drug synergy (enhanced cell death occurred when DMF, contrast agents, and ultrasound were applied simultaneously) and its role was confirmed by detecting subharmonics emitted by the insonified cell culture.

There is evidence that ultrasound affects the heart. For example, shock waves in the form of individual high amplitude (5 MPa to 10 MPa), short pulses (5 ms) of sound generated by a lithotripter have caused premature ventricular contractions in vivo, as demonstrated in frogs (82). Longer pulses of sound with high amplitude also alter the contraction of heart muscle in frogs (83). As yet no mechanism to create these bioeffects has been identified, although cavitation is likely, given the acoustic regime brought to bear in their studies.

Because the acoustic emission of sound by the contrast agents at the incident acoustic frequency is more intense than the backscatter of the incident sound from surrounding tissues, biological structures in which the contrast agents gather appear bright or brighter than their surroundings in diagnostic ultrasound images. The fact that acoustically stimulated acoustic contrast agents emit sound at frequencies in addition to the applied frequency has led to recent research to exploit those emissions for imaging.

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