Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a sticker that can allow the kind of high-resolution images of the human body formerly restricted to ultrasounds.
The stickers, the size of a stamp at two square centimeters across and three millimeters thick, sticks to skin and permits ultrasound imaging of certain internal organs for two days. The researchers, using the bioadhesive ultrasound (BAUS) device, were able to view major blood vessels and the heart, lungs, and stomachs of the participants; prior attempts at creating ultrasound probes to produce high-resolution images were not successful, because when they were stretched, the transducers would shift their relative location, resulting in a distorted image.
“Ultrasound is widely used for the noninvasive imaging of tissues and organs, but this method requires close contact between the transducer and the target area,” a description of the paper explains. “This can make it difficult to acquire images over a long period of time, especially if the patient needs to be mobile.”
“We envision a few patches adhered to different locations on the body, and the patches would communicate with your cellphone, where AI algorithms would analyze the images on demand,” Xuanhe Zhao, the senior author of the study, stated, as Science Daily reported. “We believe we’ve opened a new era of wearable imaging: With a few patches on your body, you could see your internal organs.”
Using the stickers could permit patients to wear them without having a technician holding a probe for substantial periods of time. One problem with traditional ultrasounds is that the gel which is spread on the patient’s skin can flow away and dry after a period of time.
The new sticker connects a stretchy adhesive layer with transducers. The adhesive layer surrounds a solid hydrogel with two layers of elastomer, thus preventing the hydrogel from dehydrating. The bottom elastomer layer sticks to the skin; the top sticks to the transducers.
Zhao said he thinks the stickers could not only help examine internal organs, but also monitor the development of tumors. “We imagine we could have a box of stickers, each designed to image a different location of the body,” he stated. “We believe this represents a breakthrough in wearable devices and medical imaging.”