Focused ultrasound combined with circulating microbubbles (FUS+MB) can transiently enhance blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability at targeted brain locations. Its great promise in improving drug delivery to the brain is reflected by a rapidly growing number of clinical trials using FUS+MB to treat various brain diseases. As the clinical applications of FUS+MB continue to expand, it is critical to have a better understanding of the molecular and cellular effects induced by FUS+MB to enhance the efficacy of current treatment and enable the discovery of new therapeutic strategies. Existing studies primarily focus on FUS+MB-induced effects on brain endothelial cells, the major cellular component of BBB. However, bioeffects induced by FUS+MB expand beyond the BBB to cells surrounding blood vessels, including astrocytes, microglia, and neurons. Together these cell types comprise the neurovascular unit (NVU). In this review, we examine cell-type-specific bioeffects of FUS+MB on different NVU components, including enhanced permeability in endothelial cells, activation of astrocytes and microglia, as well as increased intraneuron protein metabolism and neuronal activity. Finally, we discuss knowledge gaps that must be addressed to further advance clinical applications of FUS+MB.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-26
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Focused ultrasound
  • blood-brain barrier
  • cellular effects
  • molecular effects
  • neurovascular unit


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