New York, Oct 29: A novel iPhone-based portable ultrasound machine that can help detect cancer easily at home has been developed by US researchers. The device called Butterfly IQ is a scanner of the size of an electric razor that can display black-and-white imagery of the body, when paired with an iPhone. Developed by Connecticut-based start-up Butterfly Network, the pocket sized device works by shooting sound into the body and capturing the echoes. Usually, the sound waves are generated by a vibrating crystal. But Butterfly's machine instead uses 9,000 tiny drums etched onto a semiconductor chip, reported the MIT Technology Review on Friday. Earlier this year, John Martin, a US-based vascular surgeon and chief medical officer at Butterfly Network, discovered a cancerous mass in his own throat while testing the device.
Martin felt an uncomfortable feeling of thickness on his throat, thus he oozed out some gel and ran the probe along his neck. On his smartphone, to which the device is connected, black-and gray images quickly appeared. He found a 3 cm mass that was diagnosed as squamous-cell cancer -- a form of skin cancer that develops in the cells of the outer layer of the skin. Instead of vibrating crystals, Butterfly IQ uses "capacitive micro-machined ultrasound transducers", or CMUTs, tiny ultrasonic emitters layered on a semiconductor chip a little larger than a postage stamp. "The device gives you the ability to do everything at the bedside: you can pull it out of your pocket and scan the whole body," Martin said. The company now plans to combine the instrument with artificial-intelligence software that could help a novice position the probe, collect the right images, and interpret them. By 2018, its software will let users automatically calculate how much blood a heart is pumping, or detect problems like aortic aneurisms, the report said. The Butterfly IQ is the first solid-state ultrasound machine to reach the market in the US. The company plans to go on sale this year for $1,999-far less than any other model on the market.