Radiology leader Johns Hopkins notches $13.5M grant to develop implantable ultrasound imaging devices

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins has notched a $13.5 million grant to develop novel implantable ultrasound devices, the top imaging institution announced on Monday.

Funding comes by way of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and will be used to create high-resolution US tech to monitor traumatic spinal cord injuries. Disciplines involved in the project will include radiology along with neurosurgery, biomedical engineering and critical care.

While treating service members is the primary drive, Hopkins said their efforts will also benefit the 17,000 citizens who experience spinal injuries each year. Their final product will be the size of a Band-Aid and harness “pulse echoes” and electrical stimulation to monitor and treat blood vessels and tissue around the injury site.

“This will be a real engineering feat,” project co-leader Amir Manbachi, PhD, an assistant professor of neurosurgery and biomedical engineering, said in a statement. “Typical ultrasound transducers are bulky and designed to gather images of larger structures. We want to take this technology and shrink it for use on structures the size of a pinky finger, while still capturing clear ultrasound images of the spinal cord microvasculature.” 

Pictures produced by these tiny devices will allow physicians to monitor previously unobservable blood flow and gauge how much oxygen, nutrients and medication are reaching the injury. And they’ll be able to respond in real-time by administering potential treatments including US stimulation to bolster blood flow, curb inflammation and offer pain relief.

Hopkins is eyeing an ambitious five-year timeline to test their technology in animal studies, score FDA approval and begin human trials.