Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Micromachined Tissue-contrast Sensor and Method for Integrating Sensors in Biopsy Tools

Technology #3286


Clinical diagnosis of thyroid cancer can be very challenging, because malignant tumors need to be differentiated from benign nodules. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy is typically relied upon for final diagnosis of the thyroid nodules. However, this biopsy is challenging in itself because of the precision required in recovering a sample from the small target volumes. To aid this, conventional ultrasound imaging is performed in real time, especially for those nodules that are difficult to palpate or contain complicated solid and cystic areas. This adds significant complexity, requiring special training and equipment that only limited hospitals can afford, yet is not always effective. At least 2-5% of FNAs are read as non-diagnostic because of improper sampling. Therefore there is a need for a biopsy needle that can detect different tissue planes or variations of densities (e.g., solid vs. cystic), which can make the detection of this easily cured cancer not only more accurate, but more widely accessible.


Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a biopsy needle having a tip and a sensor mounted to the needle at a location proximate to the tip. This invention can assist in FNA but can also be applied to other procedures. The device has been tested using natural and synthetic materials that mimic the texture and ultrasound signature of human tissue, and also tested with porcine fat and muscle tissues. The magnitude and frequency of a resonant peak show tissue-specific characteristics as the needle is inserted into tissue. Real time information on tissue parameters can provide the physician immediate feedback in locating the correct region, thereby reducing the likelihood of an inconclusive diagnosis or the need to remove large volumes of tissue.

Applications and Advantages


  • Fine Needle Aspiration biopsy (FNA) sensor
  • Other types of sensors, including sensors-nl-for pressure, temperature, pH, optical,-nl-can also be integrated to provide a wide-nl-range of local tissue characteristics of-nl-interest in various medical procedures.


  • This invention provides more accurate and-nl-more wildly accessible method for tumor diagnosis.