SCIENCE – An adhesive patch the size of a stamp, developed by MIT, is capable of taking images of the body

Ultrasound imaging is a safe and noninvasive window, but requires bulky equipment. Now, a scientific team has designed an adhesive patch, the size of a stamp that adheres to the skin, capable of providing continuous images of the organs for 48 hours.

The description of the device, developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is published in the journal Science and can produce live images of major blood vessels and deeper organssuch as the heart, lungs, and stomach.

To prove its usefulness, the researchers subjected the ultrasound sticker to a series of tests with healthy volunteers, who wore it on various parts of the body, such as the neck, chest, abdomen and arms.

Participants performed a variety of activities in the lab, from sitting and standing to running, cycling, and lifting weights.

From the images of the stickers, the team was able to observe the change in diameter of major blood vessels when sitting or standing, and details of deeper organs, such as the shape of the heart changing during exercise.

Also how the stomach distended and then shrunk when the participants drank and then expelled the juice from the body.

The researchers also observed some volunteers while they were lifting weights, detecting bright patterns in the underlying muscles that indicated temporary microdamage, MIT explains in a statement.

“Thanks to the images, we could capture the moment of a training before the overload and stop it before the muscles suffer”, details Chonghe Wang, one of the authors.

“We don’t yet know when that time may be, but now we can provide imaging data that experts can interpret.”

This new ultrasound device produces high-resolution images for a longer time because it combines an elastic adhesive layer -which makes it adapt to the skin- with a rigid matrix of transducers (they convert a signal of one type of energy into another).

The adhesive layer of the device is made up of two thin layers of elastomer that encapsulate an intermediate layer of solid hydrogel, a mostly aqueous material that easily transmits sound waves; the hydrogel is elastic and extensible.

The lower layer of elastomer is designed to stick to the skin, while the upper layer adheres to the rigid array of transducers that the team also designed and manufactured.

The sticker is about 2 centimeters square and 3 millimeters thick, about the size of a postage stamp.

The current design requires attaching the stickers to instruments that translate reflected sound waves into images, so the team is working to make them work wirelessly.

If this is successful, these could become portable imaging products that patients could take home from the doctor’s office or even buy at a pharmacy.

They are also developing AI-based software algorithms that can better interpret and diagnose images.

The goal is for the patches attached to the body to communicate with the mobile phone, where AI algorithms would analyze the images on demand, details the lead author of the study, Xuanhe Zhao.

Zhao imagines that these stickers could be bought by patients and consumers in the future, and used not only to monitor various internal organs, but also the progression of tumors, as well as the development of fetuses in the womb.

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