A photoacoustic sensor could help doctors diagnose tumors, organ malfunctions and more – Zoo House News

A photoacoustic sensor could help doctors diagnose tumors, organ malfunctions and more – Zoo House News

  • Science
  • December 19, 2022
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A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed an electronic patch that can monitor biomolecules in deep tissues, including hemoglobin. This gives medical professionals unprecedented access to critical information that could help diagnose life-threatening conditions such as malignant tumors, organ dysfunction, cerebral or intestinal hemorrhage and more.

“The amount and location of hemoglobin in the body provide important information about blood flow or accumulation at specific sites. Our device shows great potential in closely monitoring high-risk groups and enabling timely intervention at urgent moments,” said Professor Sheng Xu of Nanoengineering at UC San Diego and corresponding study author.

The publication “A photoacoustic patch for three-dimensional imaging of hemoglobin and core temperature” was published in the December 15, 2022 issue of Nature Communications.

Low blood flow in the body can cause severe organ dysfunction and is associated with a range of ailments, including heart attack and vascular disease of the extremities. At the same time, abnormal accumulations of blood in areas such as the brain, abdomen, or cysts can indicate brain or visceral bleeding or malignant tumors. Continuous monitoring can aid in the diagnosis of these conditions and help in taking timely and potentially life-saving measures.

The new sensor overcomes some significant limitations of existing methods for monitoring biomolecules. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray computed tomography rely on bulky equipment that is difficult to obtain and usually only provides information about the immediate status of the molecule, making them unsuitable for long-term monitoring of biomolecules.

“Continuous monitoring is critical for timely interventions to prevent life-threatening conditions from rapidly worsening,” said Xiangjun Chen, a PhD student in nanotechnology in the Xu group and a co-author of the study. “Wearable devices based on electrochemistry for the detection of biomolecules, not limited to hemoglobin, are good candidates for long-term wearable monitoring applications. However, the existing technologies only achieve the ability of skin surface detection.”

The new, flexible, wearable patch with a low form factor can be conveniently applied to the skin and enables non-invasive long-term monitoring. It can perform three-dimensional mapping of hemoglobin with submillimeter spatial resolution in deep tissues up to centimeters under the skin, unlike other handheld electrochemical devices that only map the biomolecules on the skin’s surface. It can achieve high contrast with other fabrics. Because of its optical selectivity, it can expand the range of detectable molecules and integrate various laser diodes with different wavelengths, along with its potential clinical applications.

The patch features arrays of laser diodes and piezoelectric transducers in its soft silicone polymer matrix. Laser diodes emit pulsed lasers into tissue. Biomolecules in the tissue absorb the optical energy and radiate sound waves into the surrounding media.

“Piezoelectric transducers receive the acoustic waves, which are processed in an electrical system to reconstruct the spatial image of the wave-emitting biomolecules,” said Xiaoxiang Gao, a postdoctoral researcher in Xu’s lab and co-author of the study.

“With its low-power laser pulses, it’s also much safer than X-ray techniques using ionizing radiation,” said Hongjie Hu, a postdoctoral researcher in the Xu group and co-author of the study.

Based on the success to date, the team plans to further develop the device, including downsizing the backend control system to a wearable device for laser diode drive and data acquisition, greatly expanding its flexibility and potential clinical utility.

They also plan to explore the wearable’s potential for core temperature monitoring. “Since the photoacoustic signal amplitude is proportional to temperature, we have demonstrated core temperature monitoring in ex vivo experiments,” Xu said. “However, validation of core temperature monitoring on the human body requires interventional calibration.”

They continue to work with physicians to pursue other potential clinical applications.

The work was supported in part by the Air Force Research Laboratory under grant number FA8650-18-2-5402 and National Institutes of Health grants 1R21EB025521-01 (SX), 1R21EB027303-01A1 (SX), and 3R21EB027303-02S1 (SX). .

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