Augmentation of Muscle Blood Flow by Ultrasound Cavitation is Mediated by ATP and Purinergic Signaling
Background— Augmentation of tissue blood flow by therapeutic ultrasound is thought to rely on convective shear. Microbubble contrast agents that undergo ultrasound-mediated cavitation markedly amplify these effects. We hypothesized that purinergic signalling is responsible for shear-dependent increases in muscle perfusion during therapeutic cavitation.
Methods—Unilateral exposure of the proximal hindlimb of mice (with or without ischemia produced by iliac ligation) to therapeutic ultrasound (1.3 MHz, mechanical index 1.3) was performed for ten minutes after intravenous injection of 2×108 lipid microbubbles. Microvascular perfusion was evaluated by low-power contrast ultrasound perfusion imaging. In vivo muscle ATP release and in vitro ATP release from endothelial cells or erythrocytes were assessed by a luciferin-luciferase assay. Purinergic signalling pathways were assessed by studying interventions that either (1) accelerated ATP degradation; (2) inhibited P2Y receptors, adenosine receptors, or KATP channels; or (3) inhibited downstream signalling pathways involving endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) or prostanoid production (indomethacin). Augmentation in muscle perfusion by ultrasound cavitation was assessed in a proof-of-concept clinical trial in 12 subjects with stable sickle cell disease (SCD).
Results—Therapeutic ultrasound cavitation increased muscle perfusion by 7-fold in normal mice, reversed tissue ischemia for up to 24 hrs in the murine model of peripheral artery disease, and doubled muscle perfusion in patients with SCD. Augmentation in flow extended well beyond the region of ultrasound exposure. Ultrasound cavitation produced a nearly 40-fold focal and sustained increase in ATP, the source of which included both endothelial cells and erythrocytes. Inhibitory studies indicated that ATP was a critical mediator of flow augmentation that acts primarily through either P2Y receptors or through adenosine produced by ectonucleotidase activity. Combined indomethacin and inhibition of eNOS abolished the effects of therapeutic ultrasound, indicating downstream signalling through both NO and prostaglandins.
Conclusions—Therapeutic ultrasound using microbubble cavitation to increase muscle perfusion relies on shear-dependent increases in ATP which can act through a diverse portfolio of purinergic signalling pathways. These events can reverse hindlimb ischemia in mice for >24 hours, and increase muscle blood flow in patients with sickle cell disease.
Clinical Trial Registration—NCT01566890 https://clinicaltrials.gov
- Received August 2, 2016.
- Revision received January 6, 2017.
- Accepted January 23, 2017.