British researchers develop new ultrasound method to more easily diagnose abnormal tissue, scarring and cancer.
A new ultrasound method that can reportedly measure the level of tension in human tissue—a key indicator of disease—has been developed by researchers from the University of Sheffield.
The breakthrough, made by Dr Artur Gower from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, together with researchers from Harvard, Tsinghua University, and the University of Galway, could be used to build new ultrasound machines that are able to better diagnose abnormal tissue, scarring, and cancer.
The researchers harnessed a technique from a rail project at the University of Sheffield, which uses sound waves to measure tension along railway lines. The technique, used both for rail and medical ultrasound, relies on the principle: the greater the tension, the faster sound waves propagate. Using this principle, the researchers developed a method that sends two sound waves in different directions. The tension is then related to the speed of the waves by using mathematical theories developed by the researchers.
Previous ultrasound methods have reportedly struggled to show the difference between stiff tissue or tissue under tension. According to the researchers, the developed technique is the first capable of measuring tension for any type of soft tissue, and without knowing anything about it. In a new paper, published in the journal Science Advances, the researchers describe the new method and demonstrate how they used it to measure tension inside a muscle.
“When you go to the hospital, a doctor might use an ultrasound device to create an image of an organ, such as your liver, or another part of your body, such as the gut, to help them explore what the cause of a problem might be. One of the limitations of ultrasounds used in healthcare now is that the image alone is not enough to diagnose whether any of your tissues are abnormal” commented Gower.
“What we’ve done in our research is develop a new way of using ultrasound to measure the level of tension in tissue. This level of detail can tell us whether tissues are abnormal or if they are affected by scarring or disease. This technique is the first time that ultrasound can be used to measure forces inside tissue, and it could now be used to build new ultrasound machines capable of diagnosing abnormal tissue and disease earlier” he concluded.