In what could revolutionise the way ultrasound imaging is performed, engineers have developed a stamp-sized sticker that sticks to the skin and provides continuous ultrasound imaging. Currently, this is done using sophisticated and heavy equipment that requires specialised technicians. These ultrasound machines provide live images of the heart, lungs, and other organs. However, they are mostly only available in hospitals and medical facilities, making them inaccessible for many.
This is what engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have aimed to solve with their new creation. They obviated the need to use bulky machines and developed a small sticker that sticks to the skin and provides ultrasound imaging continuously for 48 hours.
Demonstrating the efficiency of the stickers, researchers applied them to volunteers and produced live, high-resolution images of blood vessels and organs such as lungs, stomach, and heart through the device. The volunteers were made to perform activities like standing, sitting, biking, and jogging, during which, the sticker maintained a strong adhesion and recorded the organs of the subjects.
In the current design of the device, described in the research paper, the sticker needs to be connected to an instrument that translates the recorded data or sound wave into images. However, if the device is made wireless, then, according to researchers, it could be used for a range of purposes.
“We envision a few patches adhered to different locations on the body, and the patches would communicate with your cellphone, 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,” said Xuanhe Zhao, professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MIT. Zhao is also the senior author of the study.
The team is now working toward enabling the device to function wirelessly while they are also developing artificial intelligence-based software algorithms that will allow for better interpretation and diagnosis of the sticker's images.