Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have developed a new ultrasound sticker that can monitor the stiffness of internal organs, offering a potential tool for early disease detection.  

The new small, wearable sensor, which is approximately the size of a postage stamp, is intended to adhere to the skin. 

It can detect signs of organ diseases such as liver and kidney failure, as well as solid tumour progression. 

In a study published in Science Advances, the device has shown the capability to monitor organ stiffness continuously over 48 hours and identify subtle changes indicative of disease progression. 

MIT mechanical engineering professor Xuanhe Zhao said: “When some organs undergo disease, they can stiffen over time. 

“With this wearable sticker, we can continuously monitor changes in rigidity over long periods of time, which is crucially important for early diagnosis of internal organ failure.” 

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In preliminary tests on rats, the sensor successfully identified early signs of acute liver failure.  

The engineers are now focusing on adapting the technology for human use, particularly in ICUs for patients recovering from organ transplants, where the sensors could offer continuous monitoring. 

Zhao added: “Our imaging sticker picked up on longitudinal waves, whereas this time we wanted to pick up shear waves, which will tell you the rigidity of the organ.” 

The team miniaturised the ultrasound elastography technology to fit on a 25mm-square chip, incorporating 128 miniature transducers. These transducers, made with a hydrogel adhesive, allow sound waves to pass through with minimal loss.  

The sticker’s sensitivity matches that of commercial handheld probes, which are crucial for detecting organ stiffness in post-transplant patients. 

The researchers’ next goal is to create a portable version of the sticker for at-home patient use, enabling longer-term monitoring of conditions like solid tumour progression.  

This research received support from the National Institutes of Health. 

Last year, MIT researchers developed a new wearable ultrasound device for the earlier detection of breast cancer.