BBB opening by low pulsed electric fields, depicted by delayed-contrast MRI, enables efficient delivery of therapeutic doxorubicin doses into mice brains

Itzik Cooper, David Last, Orly Ravid, Daniel Rand, Erez Matsree, Liora Omesi, Chen Shemesh, Meir Liberman, Leor Zach, Orit Furman, Dianne Daniels, Sigal Liraz-Zaltsman, Yael Mardor, Shirley Sharabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Pharmacological treatment of CNS diseases is limited due to the presence of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Recent years showed significant advancement in the field of CNS drug delivery enablers, with technologies such as MR-guided focused ultrasound reaching clinical trials. This have inspired researchers in the field to invent novel brain barriers opening (BBo) technologies that are required to be simple, fast, safe and efficient. One such technology, recently developed by us, is BDF (Barrier Disrupting Fields), based on low pulsed electric fields (L-PEFs) for opening the BBB in a controlled, safe, reversible and non-invasive manner. Here, we conducted an in vivo study to show that BDF is a feasible technology for delivering Doxorubicin (Doxo) into mice brain. Means for depicting BBBo levels were developed and applied for monitoring the treatment and predicting response. Overall, the goals of the presented study were to demonstrate the feasibility for delivering therapeutic Doxo doses into naïve and tumor-bearing mice brains and applying delayed–contrast MRI (DCM) for monitoring the levels of BBBo. Methods: L-PEFs were applied using plate electrodes placed on the intact skull of naïve mice. L-PEFs/Sham mice were scanned immediately after the procedure by DCM (“MRI experiment”), or injected with Doxo and Trypan blue followed by delayed (4 h) perfusion and brain extraction (“Doxo experiment”). Doxo concentrations were measured in brain samples using confocal microscopy and compared to IC50 of Doxo in glioma cell lines in vitro. In order to map BBBo extent throughout the brain, pixel by pixel MR image analysis was performed using the DCM data. Finally, the efficacy of L-PEFs in combination with Doxo was tested in nude mice bearing intracranial human glioma tumors. Results: Significant amount of Doxo was found in cortical regions of all L-PEFs-treated mice brains (0.50 ± 0.06 µg Doxo/gr brain) while in Sham brains, Doxo concentrations were below or on the verge of detection limit (0.03 ± 0.02 µg Doxo/gr brain). This concentration was x97 higher than IC50 of Doxo calculated in gl261 mouse glioma cells and x8 higher than IC50 of Doxo calculated in U87 human glioma cells. DCM analysis revealed significant BBBo levels in the cortical regions of L-PEFs-treated mice; the average volume of BBBo in the L-PEFs-treated mice was x29 higher than in the Sham group. The calculated BBBo levels dropped exponentially as a function of BBBo threshold, similarly to the electric fields distribution in the brain. Finally, combining non-invasive L-PEFs with Doxo significantly decreased brain tumors growth rates in nude mice. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate significant BBBo levels induced by extra-cranial L-PEFs, enabling efficient delivery of therapeutic Doxo doses into the brain and reducing tumor growth. As BBBo was undetectable by standard contrast-enhanced MRI, DCM was applied to generate maps depicting the BBBo levels throughout the brain. These findings suggest that BDF is a promising technology for efficient drug delivery into the brain with important implications for future treatment of brain cancer and additional CNS diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number67
JournalFluids and Barriers of the CNS
Issue number1
StatePublished - 22 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.


This research was supported by grant no 2021205 from the United States - Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF). It was also supported by grants no 1922-18 and 2171-22 from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and by grant no 21-901-AG from the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF).

FundersFunder number
Israel Cancer Research Fund21-901-AG
United States - Israel Binational Science Foundation
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation1922-18, 2171-22
Israel Science Foundation


    • Blood-brain barrier
    • Brain tumor
    • DCM
    • Drug delivery
    • MRI
    • Pulsed electrical fields


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