Ultrasound has become an essential tool for showing the internal structure of the body, but can it provide more detailed and dynamic images as the body reacts to drugs or diseases, according tomedia New Atlas. Australian scientists have used the technology to develop what they call the world’s first ultrasonic biosensor, which they say can be used to monitor tumours or reveal the effects of stroke at a lower cost.
Tiny, non-toxic biosensors that can be implanted into the body can give doctors and researchers a new perspective on different body processes. These could be battery-powered devices that track breathing and heart rate by detecting subtle movements in the skin, or other devices that monitor surrounding tissue to reveal the body’s response to implanted prosthetics.
Scientists at the University of Monas in Australia are working on a biosensor that can monitor the level of drugs and biomolecules in the body through ultrasound. Today’s ultrasound imaging relies on contrast agents made up of inflatable microbubbles, but they can only work for about 20 minutes, so the team is looking to solutions with greater durability.
This led them to develop nanoparticles made up of silicon dioxide nuclei coated with methyl acrylic polymers, which made them responsive to pH. These can be implanted deep into the tissue, where changes in pH lead to changes in particle stiffness, which can be obtained by a standard ultrasound scanner outside the body. This is demonstrated in the gel molds of simulated biological tissues, mouse carcasses, and live mice.
The researchers believe that monitoring the pH of the tumor in this way could provide a non-invasive way to track the tumor’s response to the drug in real time, allowing the dose to be adjusted to meet the needs of individual patients. But they hope the technology will provide more functionality, noting that nanoparticles can be adapted to tracking more complex biomarkers, such as oxygen that monitors the effects of stroke or proteins associated with other diseases.
Scientists will now begin testing the technology on actual animal disease models. Ultimately, they hope the technology will work with devices such as smartphones, eliminating the need for complex hospital or laboratory equipment and opening up new possibilities for treating patients in remote areas.
The study was published in the journal ACS Sensors.