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This Stamp-Sized Ultrasound Patch Can Image ORGANS

Whenever a patient switches into a clinic for an ultrasound of these stomach, they take a nap on crinkly paper atop an exam table. A clinician spreads a thick goo on the abdomen, then presses a little probe involved with it to send acoustic waves in to the patients body. These waves bounce off their soft tissues and body fluids, time for the probe to be translated right into a 2D image. Because the probe moves on the persons stomach, a blurry black-and-white picture appears onscreen for the clinician to learn.

While ultrasound technology is really a staple in lots of medical settings, it is big and bulky. Xuanhe Zhao, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aims to miniaturize and simplify the complete thingand ensure it is wearable. In a paper published today in Science, Zhao and his team describe their development of a little ultrasound patch that, when stuck to your skin, can offer high-resolution images of what lies underneath. The scientists hope that the technology can result in ultrasound becoming comfortable for longer-term monitoringmaybe even in the home instead of at a doctors office.

Because ultrasound equipment is indeed large and requires an office visit, Zhao says, its imaging capabilities tend to be short term, for a couple seconds, limiting the opportunity to observe how an organ changes as time passes. For instance, physicians should observe how a patients lungs change after taking medication or exercising, a thing that is difficult to accomplish in a office visit. To tackle these problems, the scientists designed a patchapproximately 1 square inch in proportions and some millimeters thickthat could be placed practically anywhere on your body and worn for two days. It appears like a postage stamp, Zhao says.

Detaching the bioadhesive ultrasound device from your skin.

Photograph: XuanheZhao

The patch is multi-layered, such as a candy wafer, with two main components: an ultrasound probe that is stacked along with a couplant, a material that helps facilitate the transmission of acoustic waves from the probe in to the body. The scientists designed the probe to be thin and rigid, utilizing a 2D selection of piezoelectric elements (or transducers) stuck between two circuits. Chonghe Wang, among the coauthors on the analysis, says these elements can transform electricity into mechanical vibrations. These vibrations travel in to the body as waves and reflect back again to an external imaging system to be translated right into a picture. Those vibrations, Wang adds, are fully noninvasive. The human cannot feel them at all.

To generate the ultrasound probe, the scientists used 3D printing, laser micromachining, and photolithography, where light can be used to produce a pattern on a photosensitive material. The probe is then coated with a layer of epoxy, which helps protect it from water damage and mold, like from sweat. Because these techniques are high-throughput, the scientists say, one device could be stated in approximately two minutes.

The jellylike couplant layer helps those ultrasound waves travel in to the body. It includes a layer of hydrogel protected by way of a layer of polyurethane to carry in water. All this is coated with a thin polymer mixture that acts as a solid gluelike substance to greatly help the complete thing stick. The scientists discovered that the patch can cling to skin for at the very least 48 hours, could be removed without leaving residue, and may withstand water.

The MIT team is among a little band of labs which have produced similar miniaturized ultrasound devices in the last couple of years. Labs at UC NORTH PARK and the University of Toronto will work on related projectsWang produced a youthful patch model at UCSD. But we were holding often limited within their imaging capabilities or were bigger than postage-stamp-sized.

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