Researchers have developed a novel “origami style” ultrasound probe that will give doctors a panoramic view of diseased blood vessels, greatly improving their ability to diagnose medical problems such as stroke.
An ultrasound probe about the size of a grain of rice that could offer panoramic views from inside the human body is being tested by US researchers. They say it could be threaded through blood vessels in the brain or swallowed like a pill.
The new device – about 1 millimetre across, 1 millimetre long and shaped like a hexagonal cylinder – affords a panoramic picture, showing the view from each side of the device, and to the front.
Jingkuang Chen and colleagues from New Mexico University, Albuquerque, US, and National Taiwan University, Taiwan, created the probe using a novel “origami-style” manufacturing technique.
They first patterned seven components, each capable of emitting ultrasound and listening for the resulting echo, on top of a flat silicon wafer. This silicon was then etched, allowing the wafer to be folded up to form the hexagonal tube.
If these tests prove successful, the hope is that it could offer doctors a much more complete picture of new locations inside the human body. “It could be used to measure blood flow deep inside the brain,” says Chen, “to identify the early stages of strokes or other disease.”