We propose and test stable algorithms for the reconstruction of the internal conductivity of a biological object using acousto-electric measurements. Namely, the conventional impedance tomography scheme is supplemented by scanning the object with acoustic waves that slightly perturb the conductivity and cause the change in the electric potential measured on the boundary of the object. These perturbations of the potential are then used as the data for the reconstruction of the conductivity. The present method does not rely on 'perfectly focused' acoustic beams. Instead, more realistic propagating spherical fronts are utilized, and then the measurements that would correspond to perfect focusing are synthesized. In other words, we use synthetic focusing. Numerical experiments with simulated data show that our techniques produce high-quality images, both in 2D and 3D, and that they remain accurate in the presence of high-level noise in the data. Local uniqueness and stability for the problem also hold. © 2011 IOP Publishing Ltd.