At the National Space Biomedical Research Institute scientists have developed a noninvasive oxymeter and pH meter. The project was conceived to develop a sensor for NASA astronauts to measure their metabolic rate and other parameters.
Placed directly on the skin, the four-inch by two-inch sensor uses near infrared light (that is just beyond the visible spectrum) to take the measurements. Blood in tiny blood vessels absorbs some of the light, but the rest is reflected back to the sensor. The monitor analyzes the reflected light to determine metabolic rate, along with tissue oxygen and pH. One unique advantage of Dr. Soller’s [Dr. Babs Soller] near infrared device is that its measurements are not impacted by skin color or body fat.
A noninvasive system also means a reduced risk of infection due to the lack of needle pricks. Most of the system’s development has occurred at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where Soller is a professor of anesthesiology. She has worked closely with researchers at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston to develop applications of the Venus system for space.
Currently, Soller and her collaborators are working on several aspects to prepare the sensor for integration into spacesuits by reducing its size, increasing its accuracy in measuring metabolic rate, and developing the capability to run on batteries. These activities will also speed its application in helping to care for patients on Earth.
More from NSBRI: Star Trek-like technology offers noninvasive monitor for patients and athletes …