Although I’m aware of traditional and open MRIs, I’ve never witnessed something that was easy to use for young children. Fellow wearable tech lover @MarijaButkovic alerted me to an exciting collaboration happening at University of California, Berkeley. Claudia Arias, a physicist with a passion for flexible circuits, and Miki Lustig, an electrical engineer with an interest in MRI, are creating a lightweight unit for pediatrics.
Children present a few challenges for standard MRI technology. One issue is the ability for a patient to be still, resulting in the use of anesthesia. Another is the weight of the coils, which can push down on a child’s chest, resulting in the use of a breathing tube. So, a scanning device that is flexible and lightweight would not only be helpful, but also less intimidating. Arias and Lustig are an unlikely team bringing things together according to the post.
It was a funny collaboration: Lustig, a software whiz, had never built hardware. Arias could build most anything but didn’t know the first thing about MRI. Neither knew anything about radio frequency, a critical component of MRI coils. They forged ahead anyway. “It was a learning curve,” Lustig said. Getting to where they are today — testing lightweight, plastic coils on patients at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital — took six years.
The duo is working with Dr. Shreyas Vasanawala at the hospital, a pediatric radiologist and engineer who has already been working to shorten the time needed for gathering data with MRIs using innovative software. Although there is an entire team of people working on this project, the coils really get the attention.
Arias’ coils…are thin, flat plastic pieces with the receiver material — silver nanoparticles — screen-printed on them. “Just like T-shirts,” Arias said. The coils are light, flexible, and see-through, like a thick report cover.
The team is working on its next iteration of this MRI device with the help of GE Healthcare. Make sure you check out the details and interviews on STATNews. There are many other uses for lightweight flexible circuits that will lead to a softer form of data collection for the medical world. If you have ideas for wearable tech that moves, you should check out our flex PCB material—Pyralux. It has copper on one side and polyamide on the other, making it more durable than copper tape with the ability to etch a circuit. What would you like to create?
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