The team developed a solid-state ultrasound contrast agent for monitoring pH fluctuations. Image credit: Walker et al, doi: 10.1021/acssensors.0c00245.

Researchers have developed the first biosensor that can be used in vivo, inside a body, able to emit signals that can be detected by common ultrasound scanners. The technology has been granted an international provisional patent. The team developed a nanoparticle that alters its stiffness in response to pH changes in the body, with these changes picked up by ultrasound.

The new technology can be inserted deep into the tissues and measure biomarkers such as pH (as a measure of whether a tumor is shrinking following chemotherapy) and in the near future more complex markers such as oxygen (as an indicator of stroke injury) or disease-related proteins.

The technology has been tested in an animal model to detect changes in pH levels. It will now be tested in an animal models of disease to determine whether it can accurately monitor rapidly changing pH levels, initially focusing on cancer and stroke.

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