Health, Medicine, & Biotechnology

Relativistic Ion Tracks (RITRACKS)

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

Once astronauts venture beyond Earth’s protective atmosphere, they are exposed to the high-energy charged particles of galactic cosmic rays (GCR) and solar particle events (SPE), and secondary protons and neutrons. GCR are composed of ions, the great majority of which are protons (≈87%) and helium nuclei (≈12%). The heavy ions of atomic number greater than 2 comprise only a small fraction of the charged particles in the GCR, but they contribute significantly to the radiation dose and dose equivalent over time. Because of their ionization patterns in biomolecules, cells and tissues are distinct from terrestrial radiation, the resulting biological effects are poorly understood, and the health risks of these radiations are subject to large uncertainties.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical, Computer simulation, Medical, health, and wellness, Radiation
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Medical Oxygen Concentrator for Microgravity Operation

Only ambient air and DC energy are required to operate the system.

John H. Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

Supplemental oxygen delivery systems are vital to provide a critical life support respiratory function. Whether they are used for patients suffering from lung diseases or other illnesses, or astronauts donning an oxygen mask during a toxic spill or fire on a spacecraft, lightweight and portable oxygen delivery systems are in high demand. A lightweight portable oxygen concentrator was developed that can produce 1 to 6 lpm of pulse oxygen in a noiseless system that can be worn on the user’s hip or in a shoulder sling.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical, Life support systems, Medical equipment and supplies, Oxygen equipment
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Lateral Displacement Device for Blood Cell Separation

This device has side microchannels where the particles are separated and collected.

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

Separation of particles based on size is one of the essential components in biochemical analysis, environmental assays, and industrial and biomedical applications. Filtration is one of the most frequently used techniques to separate particles. A mechanical filter can be used to remove, filter, or collect particles. This filtering and collection of particles can be used for sampling of particles, chemical detection, and/or biological cell analysis.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical, Particulate matter (PM), Medical equipment and supplies, Biomaterials, Particulate filters, Test equipment and instrumentation
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Using a Blood Clot in Microfluidic Valving Applications

This type of valve is satisfactory for most microfluidic applications for on-chip blood analysis.

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

The lack of reliable microvalves impedes many lab-on-a-chip applications for blood analysis. On the other hand, blood clotting — the formation of solid blood aggregate to stop bleeding — provides a natural valving mechanism. It is therefore very attractive to use this mechanism for microfluidic control when blood is available. In fact, the blood clot has many interesting mechanical properties. For example, the fibrin fibers in blood clots have extensibility as high as 330% and an elastic modulus around 8 MPa. However, the study of implementing blood clots as an engineering material, especially in the MEMS area, is lacking.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical, Cardiovascular system, Fluids and secretions, Medical, health, and wellness, Valves
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Drug-Encapsulated Prosthetic Enhancement

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

This invention places a drug delivery system inside a prosthetic implant to circumvent the physical issues encountered after fitting the implant. Implants being relatively large in size would be able to house the drug-carrying device inside them without compromising the structural integrity or the functionality of the prostheses. Capsules containing multiple reservoirs filled with different drugs could be released simultaneously. This application could further be extended to using such drug-carrying capsules in cardiovascular stents through which slow and sustained release of drugs could be achieved to prevent inflammation in the short term, and restenosis in the long term. Once the capsule has drained out, the drug inside will remain in the implant and can be considered a part of the implant for the future. The implant reservoir may also be refilled via minor surgery until needed.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical, Prostheses and implants, Pharmaceuticals
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Portable Resting State Detection System Using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

The ability to distinguish between high and low levels of task engagement is important for detecting and preventing performance decrements during safety-critical operational tasks in the real world. Examples of such tasks include commercial aviation, monitoring for air traffic control, executing spacewalks, performing surgery, and driving. Since accident-causing errors can be made even by skilled professionals, the ability to monitor cognitive state measures for low levels of task engagement in real time could be useful for developing an “early warning system” for detecting and preventing performance errors before they occur.

Posted in: Briefs, Medical, Sensors and actuators, Reaction and response times, Personnel, Risk management
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Ultrasound Competence Test Metrics

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

Diagnostic medical ultrasound requires psychomotor skill in image acquisition and cognitive skill in image interpretation. There is a lack of an objective, quantitative, and standardized method to assess psychomotor skill. In traditional radiology and cardiology training programs, physicians are certified based on duration of training and number of procedures performed. However, assessment of trainee skill is now mandated by the worldwide shift toward competencebased medical education. The benefits of skill assessment are: 1) it provides trainees with feedback on their progress, 2) faculty can identify which trainees require additional help, and 3) hospitals have a standard for credentialing.

Posted in: Briefs, Tech Briefs, Imaging, Medical, Patient Monitoring, Software, Imaging and visualization, Diagnosis, Medical equipment and supplies, Education, Education and training
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Bayesian Sleep Fusion

This tool can be adapted to track fatigue levels of individuals in occupations associated with high levels of exhaustion or periods of circadian misalignment.

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

To ensure mission success, astronauts must maintain a high level of performance, even when work-rest schedules result in chronic sleep restriction and circadian misalignment, both of which can contribute to fatigue and performance deficits unless effective countermeasures are used. The overarching goal of this project is to build an Individualized Fatigue Meter to provide astronauts and mission support personnel with immediate feedback about their alertness or fatigue levels. The Individualized Fatigue Meter incorporates sleep history, ambient light levels, schedule information, and performance tests to provide immediate individualized feedback about alertness, and allow critical insight when making decisions about scheduling future sleep periods and selecting fatigue countermeasures.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Medical, Human factors, Mental processes, Spacecraft
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Technique for Reversible Permeabilization of Live Cells for Intracellular Delivery of Quantum Dots

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

Nanomaterials are comparable in size to various biomolecules (1 to 100 nm), and have unique properties such as enhanced electrical conductivity, increased chemical reactivity, and novel optical properties that make them attractive candidates for various biomedical applications. Their comparable size and unique optical properties have been utilized to develop efficient tools for subcellular imaging and delivery of biomolecules. Traditional bimolecular delivery methods utilize plasmids, cationic polymers, lipids, and viruses that have inherent disadvantages such as degradation in physiological solutions, and the need for complex conjugation techniques.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Medical, Biological sciences, Nanomaterials
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Introduction of Structural Affinity Handles as a Tool in Selective Nucleic Separations

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

This invention relates to the general field of bio-chemical separations. Current methods for separating nucleic acids either lack sufficient selectivity or large-capacity production as required for gene therapy or DNA vaccines or other applications. There is a need for more selective methods of separating nucleic acids that results in a relatively uncontaminated product in larger volumes and yields than achieved with currently available separation methods.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Medical, Biological sciences
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