Biotechnology

The wearable ultrasound patch provides non-invasive deep tissue monitoring

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A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed a stretchable ultrasonic circuit capable of performing serial, non-invasive, three-dimensional imaging of tissue four centimeters deep beneath the surface of human skin, with a spatial resolution of 0.5 millimeters. This new method provides a non-invasive long-term alternative to current methods, with a better depth of penetration.

A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed a stretchable ultrasonic circuit capable of performing serial, non-invasive, three-dimensional imaging of tissue four centimeters deep beneath the surface of human skin, with a spatial resolution of 0.5 millimeters. This new method provides a non-invasive long-term alternative to current methods, with a better depth of penetration.

The research emerges from the lab of Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and corresponding study author. The paper, “Stretchable ultrasonic array for three-dimensional mapping of deep tissue modulus,” was published in the May 1, 2023 issue of Natural Biomedical Engineering.

“We found a wearable device that can often evaluate the stiffness of human tissue,” said Hongjie Hu, a postdoctoral researcher in Xu’s group and co-author of the study. “Specifically, we integrated a series of ultrasound elements into a soft elastomeric matrix and used stretchable corrugated electrodes to connect these elements, allowing the device to adapt to human skin for serial assessment of tissue stiffness.”

Elastographic monitoring systems can provide serial, non-invasive and three-dimensional mechanical property mapping for deep tissues. It has several main applications:

  • In medical research, serial data on pathological tissue can provide important information about the development of diseases such as cancer, which normally cause cells to stiffen.
  • Monitoring muscles, tendons, and ligaments can help diagnose and treat sports injuries.
  • Current treatments for liver and cardiovascular disease, along with some chemotherapeutic agents, can affect tissue stiffness. Continuous elastography can help assess the efficacy and delivery of these drugs. This might help in creating new treatments.

Apart from monitoring cancer tissue, this technology can also be applied to other scenarios:

  • Monitoring of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. By using this technology to evaluate the severity of liver fibrosis, medical professionals can accurately track disease progression and determine the most appropriate treatment.
  • Assess musculoskeletal disorders such as tendonitis, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome. By monitoring changes in tissue rigidity, this technology can provide valuable insight into the development of this condition, allowing doctors to develop individualized treatment plans for their patients.
  • Diagnosis and monitoring of myocardial ischemia. By monitoring the elasticity of the artery walls, doctors can identify early signs of the condition and intervene in time to prevent further damage.

The wearable ultrasound patch completes the function of traditional ultrasound detection and also breaks through the limitations of traditional ultrasound technology, such as one-time testing, in-hospital only testing and the need for staff surgery.

“This allows patients to continuously monitor their health status anytime, anywhere,” said Hu.

This can help reduce misdiagnoses and deaths, as well as cut costs significantly by providing a non-invasive and low-cost alternative to traditional diagnostic procedures.

“This new wave of wearable ultrasound technology is driving transformation in the field of healthcare monitoring, improving patient outcomes, reducing healthcare costs, and promoting widespread application of point-of-care diagnosis,” said Yuxiang Ma, a visiting student at Xu’s group. and study co-authors. “As this technology continues to develop, it is likely that we will see even more significant advances in the field of medical imaging and health monitoring.”

The array conforms to human skin and acoustically pairs with it, enabling accurate elastographic imaging to be validated by magnetic resonance elastography.

In testing, this tool is used to map the three-dimensional distribution of Young’s tissue modulus ex vivo, to detect microstructural damage in volunteer muscles before the onset of pain and to monitor the dynamic recovery process from injured muscles during physiotherapy.

The device consists of an array of 16 by 16. Each element is composed of 1-3 composite elements and a backing layer made of a silver epoxy composite designed to absorb excessive vibration, expand bandwidth, and improve axial resolution.

Professor Xu is now commercializing this technology through Softsonics LLC.


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