Retinal and choroidal neovascularization play a pivotal role in the leading causes of blindness including macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy (DR). Current therapy by focal laser photocoagulation can damage the normal surrounding cells, such as the photoreceptor inner and outer segments which are adjacent to the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), due to the use of high laser energy and millisecond pulse duration. Therapies with pharmaceutical agents involve systemic administration of drugs, which can cause adverse effects and patients may become drug-resistant.
We have developed a noninvasive photo-mediated ultrasound therapy (PUT) technique as a localized antivascular method, and applied it to remove micro blood vessels in the retina. PUT takes advantage of the high native optical contrast among biological tissues, and has the unique capability to self-target microvessels without causing unwanted damages to the surrounding tissues. This technique promotes cavitation activity in blood vessels by synergistically applying nanosecond laser pulses and ultrasound bursts. Through the interaction between cavitation and blood vessel wall, blood clots in microvessels and vasoconstriction can be induced. As a result, microvessels can be occluded. In comparison with other techniques that involves cavitation, both laser and ultrasound energy needed in PUT is significantly lower, and hence improves the safety in therapy.