MIT creates stickers capable of taking images of our organs

Ultrasound imaging is a safe, non-invasive way that allows clinicians to obtain live images of a patient’s internal organs.

Currently, ultrasound imaging requires bulky, specialized equipment only available in hospitals and doctors’ offices.

However, a new design by MIT engineers could make the technology as affordable as buying plasters at the pharmacy.

In a study published at Science, engineers present the design of a new ultrasound sticker — a device the size of a stamp which sticks to the skin and provides images of internal organs for 48 hours.

The researchers applied the stickers to volunteers and showed high-resolution images of major blood vessels and deeper organs such as the heart, lungs and stomach, according to the report. Science Daily.

the stickers maintained a strong adherence and captured changes in underlying organs as volunteers performed various activities, including sitting, standing, running, and cycling.

Current design requires attaching stickers to instruments that translate sound waves, reflected into images. The researchers point out that, even in their current format, the stickers can have immediate applications.

For example, the devices can be applied to patients in a hospital, similar to heart monitoring electrocardiogram stickers, and can provide a continuous image of internal organswithout the need for a technician to keep a probe in place for long periods of time.

If the devices could be made to work wirelessly — a goal the team is developing — the stickers could be turned into viable imaging products that patients could take home.

The researchers intend to make some changes that would allow the stickers to “communicate with the cell phone, where AI algorithms would analyze the images at the user’s request”, explains Xuanhe Zhao, professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MIT.

“We believe that we have opened a new era of images: With some spots on your body, you can see the internal organs”, says the study’s author.

The study also includes lead authors Chonghe Wang and Xiaoyu Chen, and co-authors Liu Wang, Mitsutoshi Makihata, and Tao Zhao of MIT, along with Hsiao-Chuan Liu of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

To obtain an ultrasound image, a technician first applies a liquid gel to the patient’s skin, which allows the transmission of ultrasound waves.

A probe, or transducer, is then pressed against the gel, sending sound waves into the body, which echo from the internal structures and back to the probe, where the echoed signals are echoed. translated into visual images.

For patients who need long periods of imaging, some hospitals offer probes attached to robotic arms, capable of holding a transducer in place without tiring, but the liquid ultrasound gel flows and dries over time, interrupting the image at any time. long term.

In recent years, researchers have explored extensible ultrasound probe designs with portable, low-profile images of internal organs.

These designs provided a flexible range of small ultrasound transducers, with the device stretch in accordance with the body of a patient.

But these experimental designs produced low-resolution images, in part because of their stretch. When moving with the body, the transducers shift the location relative to each other, distorting the resulting image.

“The viable ultrasound imaging tool would have enormous potential in the future of clinical diagnosis. However, the resolution and duration of images of existing ultrasound patches is relatively low, and they cannot image deep organs,” says Chonghe Wang of MIT.

The team’s new sticker produces higher resolution and longer-lasting images through an elastic adhesive layer and a set of transducers.

“This combination allows the device to adapt to the skinwhile maintaining the location of the transducers to generate clearer and more accurate images,” says Wang.

The device’s adhesive layer is made from two thin layers of elastomer with an intermediate layer of solid hydrogel, a mostly water-based material that easily transmits sound waves. Unlike the traditional ultrasound gel, the MIT team’s hydrogel is elastic.

“The elastomer prevents the hydrogel from dehydrating,” emphasizes Chen. “Only when the hydrogel is highly hydrated can the acoustic waves effectively penetrate and give high resolution images of internal organs”.

The team is working to make the stickers work wirelessly. They are also developing software algorithms based on artificial intelligence, which can better interpret and diagnose the images obtained.

It is also envisaged that the stickers can be purchased by patients and consumers, and used not only to monitor various internal organs, but also to see the progression of tumors, and the fetal development in the uterus.

“We figured we could have a box of stickers, each one designed to work in a different location on the body,” says Zhao. “We believe this represents a breakthrough in medical devices and imaging.”

Alice Carqueja, ZAP //

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