Temperature-Responsive Hydrophobic Silica Nanoparticle Ultrasound Contrast Agents Directed by Phospholipid Phase Behavior

Nicholas T. Blum, Adem Yildirim, Ciara Gyorkos, Dennis Shi, Angela Cai, Rajarshi Chattaraj, Andrew P. Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In this paper, we report ultrasonically active nanoscale contrast agents that behave as thermometric sensors through phase change in their stabilizing phospholipid monolayer. Phospholipid-stabilized, hydrophobic mesoporous silica nanoparticles (P@hMSNs) are known to interact with high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to promote cavitation at their surfaces, which can be used for both imaging and therapy. We show that the lateral lipid phase behavior of the phosphocholine lipid dictates the acoustic contrast of the P@hMSNs. When the lipids are in the gel phase below their melting temperature, the P@hMSNs generate detectable microbubbles when exposed to HIFU. However, if the lipids exhibit a liquid expanded phase, the P@hMSNs cease to generate bubbles in response to HIFU insonation. We verify that the heating and subsequent transition of lipid coating the hMSN are associated with the loss of acoustic response by doping laurdan dye into the lipid monolayer and imaging lipid phase through red shifts in emission spectra. Similarly, cessation of cavitation was also induced by adding a fluidizing surfactant such as Triton X, which could be reversed upon washing away the excess surfactant. Finally, by controlling for the partial fluidization caused by the adsorption of protein, P@hMSNs may be used as thermometric sensors of the bulk fluid temperature. These findings not only impact the utilization of nanoscale agents as stimulus-responsive ultrasound contrast agents but also have broader implications for how cavitation may be initiated at surfaces coated by a surfactant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15233-15240
Number of pages8
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number17
StatePublished - May 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science


  • lateral phase separation
  • nanoparticles
  • phospholipid
  • stimulus-responsive
  • ultrasound


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