MIT Engineers Develop Stamp-Sized Stickers That Can Carry out Ultrasounds

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(Picture: Felice Frankel/MIT)
What when you may monitor a critical well being concern by buying a field of stickers out of your native pharmacy, then carrying these stickers in your physique for as much as two days at a time? That’s what a bunch of engineers at MIT requested themselves as they developed wearable ultrasound gadgets the scale of a postage stamp.

At two centimeters throughout and three millimeters thick, the tiny ultrasound gadgets might be worn for as much as 48 hours. They adhere to the physique utilizing a form of elastomer sandwich; whereas one layer clings to the pores and skin, the opposite attaches to an array of transducers MIT custom-designed for the mission. Between the elastomer layers sits a skinny unfold of hydrogel—the identical chilly jelly unfold on the pores and skin throughout a conventional ultrasound—which acts as a medium for acoustic waves.

These acoustic waves are what type an ultrasound picture, the purposes of that are limitless. Whereas many affiliate ultrasounds with distinguishing the intercourse of a child in utero, the know-how is often used to search out gallstones, information biopsies, monitor tumor development, and diagnose situations from blood stream obstructions to kidney illness. A few of these purposes are comparatively fast and might be carried out in a couple of minutes, whereas others require longer, steadier inside monitoring. That’s the place the stickers are available in.

A diagnostic ultrasound depicting the pancreas. (Picture: Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia Commons)

It isn’t sensible to require an ultrasound technician to carry a transducer over a affected person’s physique for hours at a time, between technician discomfort and staffing considerations. Longer ultrasounds like this additionally enable the hydrogel on a affected person’s physique to dry out, which interrupts the imaging course of. Some hospitals have the privilege of attaching transducers to robotic arms for prolonged durations of time, however this doesn’t repair the hydrogel situation. In the meantime, the 2 layers of elastomer in MIT’s ultrasound stickers maintain the hydrogel contained, which prevents dehydration. It additionally frees ultrasound technicians to give attention to sufferers for whom long-term monitoring isn’t required.

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The engineers examined the stickers on quite a few wholesome volunteers, who wore the gadgets on the neck, chest, stomach, and arms. Regardless of performing actions like biking, jogging, and weightlifting (in addition to sitting and standing), the stickers remained hooked up to the volunteers’ our bodies and continued to supply clear inside photographs. The staff was in a position to make use of the stickers to observe the volunteers’ blood vessel dilation and coronary heart exertion throughout train, in addition to watch their stomachs digest juice. They have been even in a position to make use of the tiny ultrasound gadgets to detect microdamage in volunteers’ muscle tissue as they lifted weights.

The staff at MIT continues to be working to make the gadgets one hundred pc wi-fi, which means it’ll be an extended whereas earlier than the general public will get to attempt sticker ultrasounds for themselves. However the engineers have excessive hopes for his or her invention. “We envision a number of patches adhered to completely different places on the physique, and the patches would talk along with your cellphone, the place AI algorithms would analyze the pictures on demand,” the examine’s senior creator, mechanical engineering professor Xuanhe Zhao, advised MIT. “We consider we’ve opened a brand new period of wearable imaging: With a number of patches in your physique, you can see your inside organs.”

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