Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ultrasound Devices on the Rise

A small powerful prototype of a therapeutic ultrasound device developed by Cornell graduate student George K. Lewis is slated to advance the imaging field. The device fits in the palm of a hand, is battery powered, and could possibly stabilize a gunshot wound or deliver drugs to brain cancer patients. The device is wired to a ceramic probe called a transducer, and creates sound waves so strong that they instantly cause water to bubble, spray, and turn into steam.

The device is smaller, more powerful, and many times less expensive than today’s models. The hope is that in the future therapeutic ultrasound machines will be found in every hospital and medical research labs. Lewis said “New research and applications are going to spin out using these new systems since they will be cheap, affordable, and portable.”

This higher energy ultrasound machine will be able to treat prostate tumors or kidney stones by breaking them up. The device should be able to relieve arthritis pressure and help treat brain cancer by pushing drugs quickly through the brain following surgery. Lewis reports that this technology could lead to cell phone-size devices that military medics could carry to cauterize bleeding wounds or dental machines to enable the body to instantly absorb locally injected anesthetic.

The device is being tested in a clinical setting at Weill Cornell Medical College under the direction of Jason Spector, M.D., Director of the Laboratory for Bioregenerative Medicine and Surgery. The laboratory is using the devices in experiments to try to minimize injuries that occur when tissues do not receive adequate blood glow.

Peter Henderson, M.D., Chief Research Fellow of the laboratory said “Researchers are realizing that when harnessed appropriately, ultrasound can be used to treat medical problems as opposed to just diagnosing them. It’s a wide-open field and this new device is going to play a huge role in catalyzing the discovery of new and better therapeutic applications.”