NASA has developed a novel technology strategy called “The NASA Analyzer” that would provide comprehensive in-flight medical diagnostic capability in a compact, handheld device for human deep-space missions such as Mars. Key features of the technology include the ability to handle multiple sample types (breath, saliva, blood), and the ability to measure virtually any analyte, including future analytes as they emerge. The device provides both non-invasive and minimally invasive sampling capabilities, which will be required during long-duration exploration missions. Breath and saliva are fully non-invasive and can provide critical health assessment information very rapidly. From small blood samples, information about macromolecular analytes, as well as blood cell counts, can be obtained. The device consists of four cutting-edge technologies integrated into a single, compact medical diagnostic tool with wireless (e.g., smartphone) capability. In addition to space applications, this innovative technology will very likely have important spinoffs in medicine and public health on Earth.

These are examples of concept devices. The technology utilizes four cutting- edge sensor technologies to enable minimally or non-invasive analysis of various biological samples, including saliva, breath, and blood.

The technology utilizes four cutting-edge sensor technologies to enable minimally or non-invasive analysis of various biological samples. The combination of technologies and sample pathways has unique advantages that collectively provide a powerful analytical capability. The four key technology components include the following:

  1. The carbon nanotube (CNT) array designed for the detection of volatile molecules in exhaled breath;
  2. A breath condenser surface to isolate nonvolatile breath compounds in exhaled breath;
  3. The miniaturized differential mobility spectrometer (DMS)- like device for the detection of volatile and non-volatile molecules in condensed breath and saliva; and
  4. The miniaturized circular disk (CD)-based centrifugal microfluidics device that can detect analytes in any liquid sample as well as perform blood cell counts.

As an integrated system, the device has two ports for sample entry, a mouthpiece for sampling of breath, and a port for CD insertion. The breath analysis pathway consists of a CNT array followed by a condenser surface separating liquid and gas phase breath. The exhaled breath condensate is then analyzed via a DMS-like device, and the separated gas breath can be analyzed by the CNT sensor array again and by DMS detectors.

This technology can be used in space missions, the healthcare industry, homeland security, field-testing and clinical diagnostics, military and disaster response, and remote and/or harsh environments.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact the Technology Partnerships Office at ARCTechTransfer@ mail.nasa.gov to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link for more information: http://technology.nasa.gov/patent/TB2016/TOP2-246 .


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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