Key Point: Need for research into shear stresses

Effects of Shear Stress on Endothelial Cells: Possible Relevance for Ultrasound Applications


E. VanBavel. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology (journal), Volume 93, Issues 1-3, Pages 374-383 (January-April 2007)


This review forms part of a series of papers resulting from a workshop on safety of ultrasound applications. The physical effects of ultrasound include generation of steady streaming in large fluid volumes, and micro-streaming around contrast bubbles. Such streaming induces shear stress acting on the vascular endothelium. This review provides a discussion on the levels of endothelial shear stress associated with diagnostic ultrasound applications, and on the biological effects of shear stress acting on the endothelial cells. Depending on vessel size and ultrasound characteristics, shear stresses associated with streaming and micro-streaming may exceed the physiological levels associated with the flow of blood by many orders of magnitude. The resulting biological effects could range anywhere from activation of normal shear stress sensors such as ion channels, damage of the endothelial surface layer, reversible perforation of the membrane, to cell detachment and lysis. The possible presence of such biological effects does not necessarily mean that the effects are harmful for the individual. However, considering the ever-increasing use of ultrasound, a further investigation into these shear stress-related effects, using both experiments and modeling, is desired. Apart from safety concerns, such effects may provide a base for strategies aimed at targeted delivery of drugs.