Applications of focused ultrasound in the brain: from thermoablation to drug delivery

Ying Meng 1,2,3, Kullervo Hynynen4,5 and Nir Lipsman 1,2,3 ✉ Abstract | Focused ultrasound (FUS) is a disruptive medical technology, and its implementation in the clinic represents the culmination of decades of research. Lying at the convergence of physics, engineering, imaging, biology and neuroscience, FUS offers the ability to non-invasively and precisely intervene in key circuits that drive common and challenging brain conditions. The actions of FUS in the brain take many forms, ranging from transient blood–brain barrier opening and neuromodulation to permanent thermoablation. Over the past 5 years, we have seen a dramatic expansion of indications for and experience with FUS in humans, with a resultant exponential increase in academic and public interest in the technology. Applications now span the clinical spectrum in neurological and psychiatric diseases, with insights still emerging from preclinical models and human trials. In this Review, we provide a comprehensive overview of therapeutic ultrasound and its current and emerging indications in the brain. We examine the potential impact of FUS on the landscape of brain therapies as well as the challenges facing further advancement and broader adoption of this promising minimally invasive therapeutic alternative.
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