Theranostic Multilayer Capsules for Ultrasound Imaging and Guided Drug Delivery

Jun Chen, Sithira Ratnayaka, Aaron Alford, Veronika Kozlovskaya, Fei Liu, Bing Xue, Kenneth Hoyt, Eugenia Kharlampieva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Despite the accessibility of ultrasound, the clinical potential of ultrasound-active theranostic agents has not been fully realized because it requires combining sufficient imaging contrast, high encapsulation efficiency, and ultrasound-triggered release in one entity. We report on theranostic polymer microcapsules composed of hydrogen-bonded multilayers of tannic acid and poly(N-vinylpyrrolidone) that produce high imaging contrast and deliver the anticancer drug doxorubicin upon low-power diagnostic or high-power therapeutic ultrasound irradiation. These capsules exhibit excellent imaging contrast in both brightness and harmonic modes and show prolonged contrast over six months, unlike commercially available microbubbles. We also demonstrate low-dose gradual and high-dose fast release of doxorubicin from the capsules by diagnostic (100 mW/cm2) and therapeutic (>10 W/cm2) ultrasound irradiation, respectively. We show that the imaging contrast of the capsules can be controlled by varying the number of layers, polymer type (relatively rigid tannic acid versus more flexible poly(methacrylic acid)), and polymer molecular weight. In vitro studies demonstrate that 50% doxorubicin release from ultrasound-treated capsules induces 97% cytotoxicity to MCF-7 human cancer cells, while no cytotoxicity is found without the treatment. Considering the strong ultrasound imaging contrast, high encapsulation efficiency, biocompatibility, and tunable drug release, these microcapsules can be used as theranostic agents for ultrasound-guided chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3135-3146
Number of pages12
JournalACS Nano
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 28 2017


  • doxorubicin
  • drug delivery
  • hydrogen-bonded
  • multilayer
  • tannic acid
  • ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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