Scientists hope to create a “smart patch” for knees that can be used to detect early signs of arthritis in the knees of patients.
Researchers at Cardiff University are using damage sensors found in aircraft wings to help pick up subsonic cracking sounds in joints that can be an early sign of the disease.
The scanning tool, which can cost as little as 10p, has been hailed as “the holy grail” by the scientists.
When joints develop arthritis they make audible creaking or grating noises during movement known as crepitus. However, in the earlier stages of the ailment the sounds are at higher frequencies not audible to human ears.
The scientists hope to use technology known as acoustic emission sensors – which are used in aircraft wings to stop damage in the structure – to pick up joint sounds early via patches worn on the skin.
The disease affects an estimated 8.75 million people in the UK according to Arthritis Research UK, but Dr Davide Crivelli, of the School of Engineering at Cardiff University, said he was confident the patch could be in use within 10 years.
“The idea has got huge potential to change the way we diagnose osteoarthritis,” he said.
“If we’re able to link the sound signature of a healthy knee and a knee with disease, we will be able to lower the costs on society a lot.”