These Stamp-Sized Ultrasound Stickers Can See Inside the Body

Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a stamp-sized sticker that can provide live, high-resolution ultrasound images of the heart, lungs, and other internal organs.

The wearable medical device can provide continuous ultrasound imaging of internal organs for up to 48 hours, according to a paper published last week in Science.

The stickers, measuring two by three centimeters, adhere directly to the skin and could enable diagnostic and monitoring tools for various diseases, including some heart conditions, pregnancy-related complications, and several types of cancers.

Currently, ultrasound imaging requires bulky and specialized equipment available only in hospitals and doctor’s offices. But this new design by MIT engineers might make the technology as wearable and accessible as buying Band-Aids at the pharmacy.

In an interview with MIT News, the study’s senior author, Xuanhe Zhao says the applications for the stickers are wide.

“We envision a few patches adhered to different locations on the body, and the patches would communicate with your cellphone, where AI algorithms would analyze the images on demand,” Zhao explains.

“We believe we’ve opened a new era of wearable imaging. With a few patches on your body, you could see your internal organs.”

Ultrasound Stickers

The MIT team ran the devices through a series of tests in which volunteers wore the stickers as they performed various activities, including sitting, standing, jogging, and cycling.

The stickers currently need to be connected to transducers that translate the reflected sound waves into clear, ultrasound images. However, the engineers behind the stickers are working on creating wireless versions that patients could take home from a doctor’s office or even buy at a pharmacy. The MIT team is also developing software algorithms based on artificial intelligence that can better interpret and diagnose the stickers’ images.

Zhao says he envisages a future wireless product that appears as “a box of stickers, each designed to image a different location of the body.”

However, the MIT engineers say that even in their current form, the stickers could have immediate applications. For instance, the devices could be applied to patients in the hospital, similar to heart-monitoring electrocardiogram (EKG) stickers, and could continuously image internal organs without requiring a technician to hold a probe in place for long periods of time.

Earlier today, Petapixel reported on another team of engineers at MIT who repurposed a 19th-century photography technique to create an elastic material that changes color when it is stretched.

Image credits: MIT