New stickers may replace ultrasounds, provide clear images of internal organs

New stickers may replace ultrasounds, provide clear images of internal organs

A classroom reward and coveted water bottle decorator, the humble sticker is entering a new arena: the world of the medical device.

Gone are the days when bulky equipment was needed for noninvasive imaging into the body’s mysteries. Now, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a minimalist adhesive patch that can produce ultrasound images of the heart, lungs and other organs.

Approximately the size of a stamp, the “sticker” adheres to the skin and gives physicians continuous ultrasound imaging of internal organs for 48 hours.

The paper, published in the journal Science, described how researchers applied the stickers to volunteers to produce live, high-resolution images of internal organs and major blood vessels. Unlike most ultrasounds, these subjects weren’t required to be stationary — the stickers remained sticky throughout standing, jogging and even biking, capturing images as the bodies responded to changes in exertion and position.

The devices could eventually be used on hospital patients, like heart-monitoring EKG stickers, for example, relieving a technician of having to hold a probe in place.

For now, the stickers must be connected to instruments that translate sound waves into images. But wireless operation is the goal. Ideally, the researchers say, the stickers would become wearable imaging products available at pharmacies or take-home items from the doctor’s office.

When it comes to medical inventions, convenience without compromised quality is always the goal. Here’s hoping our beloved, simple stickers soon enjoy a more important role — lifesaving medical devices.

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