Tech Breakdown: Exciting Developments in Therapeutic Ultrasound

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Therapeutic ultrasound is a versatile technology that can be used in a variety of environments, for a variety of patients, in a variety of ways. Here are just a few exciting applications. 

 The overall ultrasound market is projected to reach $8.4 billion by 2023 from $6.3 billion in 2018. And although market analysists agree that the diagnostic side of ultrasound technology accounts for the larger share of that growth, ultrasound technology for therapeutic applications is on the rise.   

Ultrasound has a long and valued history as a therapeutic tool. Low power ultrasound has been widely available since the 1950’s for conditions such as tendinitis or bursitis. In the 1980’s, high pressure-amplitude shockwaves were introduced to treat kidney stones (lithotripsy) and quickly became the gold standard. Medical applications have continued to expand to include uterine fibroid ablation, cataract removal, surgical tissue cutting and hemostasis, transdermal drug delivery, and bone fracture healing, among others.  

Ultrasound technology has unique benefits. It provides deep heating to heal soft tissues, muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments without radiation risk or damage to surrounding tissues. The acoustic (vibration) effect can also provide therapeutic benefits beyond heat. It can be used focused or unfocused to achieve the desired effects.

Market players continue to develop exciting therapeutic ultrasound for use in implants, surgical tools, and home use devices. We looked at some of the exciting technologies that are coming from therapeutic ultrasound manufacturers.

Iota Biosciences takes ultrasound to innerspace

Coming out of Berkley, CA, iota Biosciences is disrupting the implantable space by leveraging ultrasound to power their tiny neurostimulation devices instead of batteries or electromagnetic waves. The company has created a millimeter-sized ultrasonic therapy device it describes as a neural dust platform. It is intended to treat various neural conditions, including inflammation, motor disorders, and cognitive decline. Iota’s technology not only powers nerve stimulation using ultrasound waves, it also drive biometric monitoring such as recording of nerve activity and core body temperature. In February, it raised about $15 million in a series A round.

Madorra tackles an overlooked women’s health issue

Portland, Oregon-based Madorra is creating the first hormone-free medical device to treat vaginal dryness for postmenopausal women, aimed at improving quality of life. Currently there are no effective, non-hormonal treatment options; thus, many women suffer with only lubricants, or worse, are living without intimacy.

The device is designed for home use and offers an alternative to creams and drugs that alter hormones and represent an increased risk of stroke or breast cancer for large populations of women. Madorra employs a hand-held ultrasound device to generate heat within the vaginal tissue that can conduct 5 to 8 centimeters deep while the device itself remains completely external. That increase in temperature creates more blood flow, which naturally brings about more lubrication. 

Most recently, Madorra raised $4 million from OneVentures to conduct clinical trials in Australia.

 EdapTMS aims for precision cancer treatments

EDAP TMS is one of the key players of therapeutic ultrasound. It’s flagship technology, known as Focal One, is being offered at leading medical centers. The France-based company uses high intensity focused ultrasound technology to target and ablate diseased tissue in patients suffering from prostate cancer. The device is designed to create a precise and irreversible coagulation necrosis of the targeted tissue, while still preserving the surrounding healthy tissue. In February, UCI Health (UCI) became the first medical center in the United States to treat prostate cancer patients with Focal One. 

SonVie targets pulmonary arterial hypertension

SonVie’s therapeutic intravascular ultrasound (TIVUS) is designed to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension. SonVie is an Israel-based portfolio company of Accelmed fund. Its device is a catheter that goes either through the jugular vein or the femoral vein into the right side of the heart and passes through the heart into the pulmonary artery. It uses three ultrasound arrays at the distal tip, which create sound waves that heat up the nerves around the pulmonary artery. The nerves then die, interrupting the signaling that cause narrowing of the artery. The artery relaxes, as does pressure in the pulmonary artery, reducing the work that the right side of the heart needs to do. The startup company recently completed its first clinical trial.

A Versatile Future

Ultrasound-based therapies represent a promising strategy for neural, cardiovascular, cancer, kidney, and women’s health treatments, to name a few. The adaptable nature of ultrasound makes it a powerful option for a variety of therapies. Therapeutic benefits can be delivered in a minimally or noninvasive mode, offering an improved patient experience, with minimal risk of damage to surrounding tissues. The technology’s use in surgical environments, clinics, and home will continue to increase in popularity.