US researchers develop shape-changing ultrasound “stickers” for patient monitoring

Researchers from Northwestern University and Washington University at St. Louis (WashU) have developed a “sticker” with the ability to change in shape in response to the body’s changing pH levels, in the hopes that clinicians viewing shape changes in real time through ultrasound imaging could identify earlier warnings for post-surgery complications.

The stickers are designed using hydrogel materials and dissolve following a patient’s recovery, “bypassing the need for surgical extraction”.

Dr. Chet Hammill led the clinical evaluation and further studies at WashU and noted that at present there is “no good way” to detect fluid leaks arising from gastrointestinal surgeries. “The majority of operations in the abdomen — when you have to remove something and sew it back together — carry a risk of leaking,” Chet commented. “We can’t fully prevent those complications, but maybe we can catch them earlier to minimize harm. Even if we could detect a leak 24- or 48-hours earlier, we could catch complications before the patient becomes really sick. This new technology has potential to completely change the way we monitor patients after surgery.”

Testing in both small and large animal models highlighted that “ultrasound imaging consistently detected changes in the shape-shifting sticker — even when it was 10 centimeters deep inside of tissues”, changing shape when detecting changing pH levels.

Co-lead of device development, John A. Rogers, has also been involved in other work using “bioresorbable electronic devices”, including dissolvable pacemakers, nerve stimulators and implantable painkillers.

In other news from the US, the Windreich Department of Artificial Intelligence and Human Health at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, has been awarded $1.95 million to create a new fellowship program. The funding will support “an inaugural cohort” of five fellows for a three-year fellowship under The Eric and Wendy Schmidt AI in Human Health Fellowship Program.

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