NASA's Contributions to the World of Medicine



NASA's space exploration has resulted in numerous benefits to the field of health and medicine. Partnerships between NASA and other researchers have led to medical breakthroughs that have evolved medical practice.

An example is NASA’s spin-off program that aims at using space technology to enhance the lives of individuals in the land. The spin-off program was originally developed with the objective of enhancing NASA's missions. However, it was later adopted for commercial use. Recently, NASA sponsored clinical trials on the potential benefits of light technology. The clinical trials were carried out by a Wisconsin Company in partnership with a research center. The clinical trials found out that light technology can be used to manage adverse effects that are caused by anticancer agents and radiation therapy in cancer patients.

In this article, you will find NASA's contributions to the health and medical field and why these breakthroughs are significant.

NASA Medical Breakthrough #1: Devices Used to Get Quick Medical Readings

Space explorers require systems that will ensure the safety of astronauts while on a mission. Glenn Research Center issued a monetary award to the DNA Medical Institute to come up with a device that can do an analysis of different health indications in a simple test. The DNA Medical Institute came up with a device known as an rHealth sensor. The method uses a single blood sample and Nanostrips to measure biomarkers. Besides its importance in space, the technology can be used in rural places that do not have access to well-equipped laboratories.

NASA Medical Breakthrough #2: Sensors That Monitor The Body's Metabolism

A partnership was formed between NASA, Case Western University, and Cleveland Clinic to device a sensor that can be used to measure the metabolic rate in the body. The Portable Unit for Metabolic Analysis (PUMA) was developed to help in monitoring the metabolic health of space explorers. PUMA was later licensed and modified by Cleveland-based Orbital Research to assist the Navy in measuring the pilot oxygen deficiency. The institution is also developing a device that will be used in the hospitals to monitor the rate of oxygen intake by patients. The latest PUMA technology has been upgraded to have a longer battery life and less weight.

NASA Medical Breakthrough #3: Devices Enabling Medication Management

ZIN Technologies received a monetary award from NASA’s Glenn Research Center to design a platform that would be integrated with sensors that determine an astronaut’s health status. The device would then relay the information to the ground. NASA observed that its astronauts lost bone mass even while training on the ISS. The space explorers decided to fund Zinn Technologies to come up with a way of addressing the menace. Zinn Technologies developed a system that was later upgraded to FlexLife Health with the goal of commercializing the technology. The device, known as vMetrics is used as a component of the anticoagulant management system for patients diagnosed with a chronic cardiovascular disease.

NASA Medical Breakthrough #4: A System That Can Measure Behavioral Alertness

During a mission in space, astronauts find it difficult to get enough rest due to ailments that are related to microgravity. Other challenges include disrupted circadian rhythm and disturbance of the sleep-wake cycle. To address this issue, NASA's Johnson Space Center opted to fund Pulsar Informatics Inc. to design software that is capable of monitoring and measuring behavioral alertness. Pulsar Informatics Inc. modified the Psychomotor Vigilance Task that is used to find out the level of fatigue in an individual. Pulsar later developed software that is currently used on the ISS. The software has been commercialized, and various institutions including government agencies and other companies have adopted the software.

NASA Medical Breakthrough #5: Simulators Used by Emergency Caregivers For Their Training

Ruggedized patient simulators were developed to help in training astronauts in microgravity environments aboard aircraft with a reduced force of gravity. The ruggedized simulators have been adopted in the training of personnel that works as emergency caregivers in hospitals, fire departments, and other agencies.

NASA Medical Breakthrough #6: Development of Air Refrigerators Capable of Storing Vaccines

NASA’s photovoltaic technology is currently being used on earth including solar-powered refrigerators. A battery-free unit was developed by SunDanzer Refrigeration Inc. to help in storing vaccines safely in rural places where there is no access to electricity. The World Health Organization approved the use of the refrigerator in health institutions.

Final Thoughts

The space explorers are always on the mission of finding methods that can be used to enhance the health and safety of astronauts while on a space mission. Although most innovations are focused on how to better the lives of the explorers in space, the findings end up contributing to better healthcare to people on earth as we have covered in this piece.


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