May 2021 Newsletter: Acoustics Makes Me Feel Good

When we talk about acoustics, we are generally referring to architectural acoustics, the field of acoustics that deals with sound in and around buildings. However, the field of acoustics covers a broad range of physical phenomena as illustrated by Robert Bruce Lindsay’s 1964 “Wheel of Acoustics” shown below. In this month’s newsletter, we focus on applications of medical acoustics, specifically those in the field of internal medicine. We’ve all heard of ultrasound technology routinely used in medical applications but read on to learn more about other medical devices rooted in acoustics.

Lung Flute
There are approximately 300 million people worldwide who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow to and from the lungs. There is no cure for COPD, but Medical Acoustics, LLC has developed an FDA-approved medical airway device, the Lung Flute, that is used to supplement the natural mucus-clearing ability of the lungs. As a patient breathes through the mouthpiece of the Lung Flute, the breath moves a Mylar reed, creating low-frequency airway vibrations deep within the lungs. This vibration loosens mucus secretions obstructing the airways and allows the patient to clear their airways and breath freely. No drugs necessary!

Implantable electronic devices are widely used for cochlear implants, insulin pumps, and nerve stimulation, to name a few applications. A challenge posed by implantable electronic devices is how to charge batteries and how to communicate with the devices, especially while keeping them as small as possible. A tiny electronic module called a harvester, which is part of the implanted device, can generate electric currents when exposed to an external ultrasound source. Using this technology, implanted devices can be commanded to administer drugs, to stimulate a nerve, or to monitor internal body conditions. This technology has a wide range of applications, from sensing increased blood pressure to managing insulin levels in diabetes patients. Command and control using sound!

Ultrasonic Nanobubbles
Ultrasonic nanobubbles are created from injected nanodroplets that are designed to enter the circulatory system of tumors.  The application of an intense pulse of ultrasound vaporizes the nanodroplets to form small bubbles of gas through a complex interaction of pressure, drop size, and wavelength. The vaporization of the nanodroplets delivers medicine directly to the tumor while avoiding harmful effects to healthy tissue elsewhere in the body. This technique can be used as a localized form of chemotherapy. Perhaps the future of cancer treatment will hinge on acoustics!

While our day-to-day experiences with acoustics are mostly external, tangible phenomena, there is a whole world of acoustical applications that can help to diagnose and treat a variety of physical ailments within our bodies.  Who you gonna call? AcousticBusters.   

June 2021 Newsletter: Not So Good Vibrations
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