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16 Feb 2023 - 18 Feb 2023

Wearable Skin Patch Monitors Hemoglobin in Deep Tissues to Help Diagnose Tumors

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 22 Dec 2022
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Image: A photoacoustic sensor could help clinicians diagnose tumors and organ malfunctions (Photo courtesy of UC San Diego)
Image: A photoacoustic sensor could help clinicians diagnose tumors and organ malfunctions (Photo courtesy of UC San Diego)

Low blood perfusion inside the body may cause severe organ dysfunctions and is associated with a range of ailments, including heart attacks and vascular diseases of the extremities. At the same time, abnormal blood accumulation in areas such as in the brain, abdomen or cysts can indicate cerebral or visceral hemorrhage or malignant tumors. Continuous monitoring can aid diagnosis of these conditions and help facilitate timely and potentially life-saving interventions. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray-computed tomography rely on bulky equipment that can be hard to procure and usually only provide information on the immediate status of the molecule, which makes them unsuitable for long-term biomolecule monitoring. Now, a new sensor overcomes some significant limitations in existing methods of monitoring biomolecules

A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego (La Jolla, CA, USA) has developed an electronic patch that can monitor biomolecules in deep tissues, including hemoglobin. This gives medical professionals unprecedented access to crucial information that could help spot life-threatening conditions such as malignant tumors, organ dysfunction, cerebral or gut hemorrhages and more. The new, flexible, low form-factor wearable patch comfortably attaches to the skin, allowing for noninvasive long-term monitoring. It can perform three-dimensional mapping of hemoglobin with a submillimeter spatial resolution in deep tissues, down to centimeters below the skin, versus other wearable electrochemical devices that only sense the biomolecules on the skin surface. It can achieve high contrast to other tissues. Due to its optical selectivity, it can expand the range of detectable molecules, integrating different laser diodes with different wavelengths, along with its potential clinical applications.

The patch is equipped with arrays of laser diodes and piezoelectric transducers in its soft silicone polymer matrix. Laser diodes emit pulsed lasers into the tissues. Biomolecules in the tissue absorb the optical energy, and radiate acoustic waves into surrounding media. Based on its success so far, the team plans to further develop the device, including shrinking the backend controlling system to a portable-sized device for laser diode driving and data acquisition, greatly expanding its flexibility and potential clinical utility. They also plan to explore the wearable’s potential for core temperature monitoring and are continuing to work with physicians to pursue more potential clinical applications.

“The amount and location of hemoglobin in the body provide critical information about blood perfusion or accumulation in specific locations. Our device shows great potential in close monitoring of high-risk groups, enabling timely interventions at urgent moments,” said Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego and corresponding author of the study.

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