The American Medical News, an official AMA publication, reviews some of the latest technologies coming out of NASA:
Babs R. Soller, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology, surgery and biomedical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is heading a research project that is refining near infrared spectroscopic techniques to provide needle-free blood and tissue measurements.
The longer wavelengths of near infrared light generally can pass through skin and to some extent bone, letting physicians and others obtain chemical information about tissues and blood noninvasively, she said.
Dr. Soller believes the astronauts might be able to use it to measure tissue pH to determine how hard a muscle is working, a major question in space. Here on Earth, it could be used to measure muscle atrophy for people on bed rest. Other potential applications include treating patients in shock due to excessive bleeding or heart attack, patients with internal bleeding and children who won’t sit still for a needle.
Additional devices being developed include one that will run tests on a very small amount of blood — one-tenth of a drop — or other body fluid. Although noninvasive technology is an NSBRI goal, a tiny blood sample would be required for the portable body fluid analysis system envisioned by researchers at the California Institute of Technology, said principal investigator Yu-Chong Tai, PhD, professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering.
“Current technology does not allow NASA to check astronauts’ blood counts in space,” he said. But blood counts hold an important place in assessing astronauts’ health because they are continually bombarded by red-blood-cell-depleting radiation — the equivalent of having 100 x-rays every day. “We all know that astronauts are under huge radiation stress,” Dr. Tai said. “To monitor their blood in space is everybody’s dream.” The technology also could be used on Earth, he noted. “It should be in every ambulance.”
Read the whole thing — I did.