Ultrasound is a potential imaging technology that provides dozens of promising applications in medical field. This has led to direct impact on the research investigations using microbubbles. For instance, in September 2012, GE Healthcare launched an Open Innovation Initiative to Accelerate Ultrasound Research. This initiative was aimed at increasing GE collaborations with rapidly growing community of ultrasound researchers to research new applications using ultrasound devices and microbubbles. These researches are expected to lead to innovative new therapies and diagnostic solutions in health care. Currently, Bracco Diagnostics, Inc. (U.S. based key player in microbubbles market) has been under taking pilot trials to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of BR55 targeting for prostate cancer. BR55 is a novel VEGFR2-specific targeted microbubble contrast agent for molecular imaging of angiogenesis. The firm expects the product to be launched in the market by 2022.
There also has been large number of on-going academic researches that explores various attributes of microbubbles in off-label indications in diagnosis as well as drug delivery. These researches make use of commercially available microbubble products. In addition, novel microbubble products are also being designed that improve the delivery of therapy agent at the targeted organ or enhance the acoustic properties of an ultrasound. These growing research activities are likely to spur the market for microbubbles in the coming years.
Microbubble contrast agents are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in cardiology for left ventricular border definition and liver imaging. However, the advantages provided by the microbubbles have led to increase in off-label use. For instance, enhancement of Doppler signals and myocardial contrast echocardiography (MCE) for perfusion remain off-label uses of the microbubbles. The use of microbubbles in MCE showcases enormous potential in animal research studies. In addition, large number of research activities in the field of microbubbles will increase the off-label usage of microbubbles. The research institutions have been following necessary guidelines such as seeking Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. For instance, a research titled ‘Isolation of Rare Tumor Cells from Blood Cells with Buoyant Immuno-Microbubbles’ published in May 2013 was IRB approved and the animal studies were conducted under UCSD IACUC protocol (protocol S07388). Moreover, if the drug companies and vendors are interested in the research study, they are likely to provide grants only if the study is IRB approved.
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