Engineers develop stickers that can see inside the body

Medical Devices

Ultrasound imaging, providing clinicians with live images of a patient's internal organs, is a non-invasive and safe window into the body's workings. Trained technicians manipulate ultrasound probes and wands to direct sound waves into the body to capture these images. The waves reflect back out to produce high-resolution images of a patient's lungs, heart and other deep organs.

At the moment, ultrasound imaging involves specialised and bulky equipment obtainable only in doctor's offices and hospitals. But a new design created by MIT engineers might make the technology as available as buying plasters at the pharmacy.

“Ultrasound imaging provides clinicians with live images of a patient's internal organs.“

The engineers presented the design for a new ultrasound sticker – a stamp-sized device that attaches to the skin and can offer constant ultrasound imaging of internal organs for forty-eight hours.

The researchers presented that the devices could produce high-resolution, live images of deeper organs and major blood vessels such as the stomach, lungs and heart after applying the stickers to volunteers. The stickers captured variations in underlying organs and upheld a strong adhesion as participants performed various actions, including biking, jogging, standing and sitting.

The existing design requires the stickers to be connected to instruments that translate the reflected sound waves into images. It has been pointed out that even in their present form, the stickers could have immediate, practical applications; for example, the devices could continuously image a patient's internal organs without requiring a probe to be held in place for more extended periods of time.

An objective that the team is working towards is making the devices able to operate wirelessly; if this is achieved, the ultrasound stickers could become wearable imaging products that people could buy at a pharmacy or take home from a doctor's office.

Mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering professor, Xuanhe Zhao, has stated, "We envision a few patches adhered to different locations on the body, and the patches would communicate with your cell phone, where AI algorithms would analyse the images on demand. We believe we've opened a new era of wearable imaging: With a few patches on your body, you could see your internal organs."

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