HOUSTON (April 29, 2009) How long will it take to develop Star Trek-like medical technologies? The gap between science fiction and reality is closing faster than many people may think.
A noninvasive, needle-free system that uses light to measure tissue oxygen and pH will soon be an alternative to the painful use of needles to draw blood and cumbersome equipment to determine metabolic rate. The futuristic system, dubbed the Venus prototype, is being developed by Dr. Babs Soller and her colleagues. It has the capability to measure blood and tissue chemistry, metabolic rate (oxygen consumption) and other parameters.
The sensor and portable monitor are funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) for use in space. Soller said the technology's multiple, real-time applications will be beneficial to astronauts in their day-to-day activities and to critically ill patients on Earth.
"Tissue and blood chemistry measurements can be used in medical care to assess patients with traumatic injuries and those at risk for cardiovascular collapse," said Soller, who leads NSBRI's Smart Medical Systems and Technology team. "The measurement of metabolic rate will let astronauts know how quickly they are using up the oxygen in their life-support backpacks. If spacewalking astronauts run low on oxygen, the situation can become fatal."
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 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
|Contact: Brad Thomas|
National Space Biomedical Research Institute