A group of engineers has designed a wearable 'sticker' that acts as an ultrasound and can see inside the body.
Created by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the stamp-sized device sticks to the skin and can provide continuous ultrasound imaging of internal organs for 48 hours.
Currently, ultrasound imaging requires bulky and specialised equipment available only in hospitals and doctor's offices. But the new design might make the technology as wearable and accessible as buying plasters at the pharmacy.
During a trial, when researchers applied the stickers to volunteers, they were able to capture live, high-resolution images of the patients' major blood vessels, and even organs as deep in the body as the stomach.
Throughout the experiment, the sticker maintained strong adhesion and was able to capture the subtle changes that occurred in the organs as volunteers were asked to sit, stand, jog, and even ride a bike.
The current design requires connecting the stickers to instruments that translate the reflected sound waves into images.
If the devices can be made to operate wirelessly - a goal the team is currently working toward - the ultrasound stickers could be transformed into wearable imaging products that patients could take home from a doctor's office or even buy at a pharmacy.
"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," said the study's senior author, Xuanhe Zhao, professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MIT. "We believe we've opened a new era of wearable imaging: With a few patches on your body, you could see your internal organs."