Space Products & Innovation
Science, Biotechnology, and Health Care
Advanced telemedicine, or remote medical care, has improved due to space-related research in electronic sensors and navigation technology. One example is the development of a wrist monitor that, over time, calculates a person’s pattern of biological readings, such as body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and other basic measurements.
A new space-related product on the market with application in physical training is the smart e-shirt and the related TrainGrid technology. This product can measure and transmit key health data more accurately and more comfortably than current monitoring devices.
Dentists will soon be able to use a new dental instrument: a tiny, high-resolution X-ray camera that is thinner and smaller than current X-ray machines, minimizing patient discomfort. This tiny X-ray camera was built by a Swedish company, Nanospace, drawing on the same techniques that are used to build micro-propulsion systems for satellites.
Biotechnology breakthroughs are occurring as engineers find inspiration from the lotus plant to develop materials that can overcome the challenging space environment. Studies of lotus plants and their ability to shed water and dirt are inspiring a NASA team to develop a similar capability for use on spacesuits, scientific instruments, robotic rovers, and other devices used for exploring the solar system.
The space environment can also be useful for developing medical vaccines. Aboard the Space Shuttle, NASA astronauts conducted research on the effects of spaceflight on salmonella cells. The weightless environment of spaceflight causes the salmonella cells to function as though they are crossing from the intestine into the bloodstream to start an infection.
Research conducted to support astronauts living and working in space may lead to medical treatments to stop bone loss in cancer treatment patients. Microgravity is well known to cause bone loss in astronauts, but recent research shows that elevated radiation levels typical in the space environment also contribute to this effect.
College students participating in a NASA internship program are learning to use data from spacecraft to identify habitats of ticks carrying Lyme disease within Alabama and to raise public awareness of the disease. Initially the students determined that Lyme disease bacteria were present in ticks in central Alabama.
Data from spacecraft enables research teams from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Global Emerging Infections System and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to monitor and predict disease outbreaks for Rift Valley fever epidemics in East Africa.
Since the 2006 return of NASA’s Stardust spacecraft, scientists have been analyzing captured samples of the comet Wild 2. NASA researchers found that the samples contained a fundamental building block of life—the amino acid glycine—marking the first time an amino acid was found in a comet.