Medical feedback for astronauts

An Interview with:
Babs R. Soller, Ph.D.
University of Massachusetts Medical School
NSBRI Smart Medical Systems and Technology Team

Courtesy of EarthSky Communications

Babs Soller: We can put the sensor on the surface of the skin and near-infrared light will penetrate through the skin and through the fat and into the muscle.

Dr. Babs Soller has worked for a decade on a wearable, non-invasive sensor that uses light to measure the metabolic rates of astronauts.

Babs Soller: What our sensor does is in real time it measures the metabolic rate, or level of oxygen consumption. It will report that to the astronaut, and there'll be a smart or intelligent system that will help them plan their activities so that they can make sure that they don't run out of oxygen.

Soller works with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. She said data from this sensor could be used for hospital patients on Earth to avoid life-threatening situations.

Babs Soller: The sensors will also provide feedback to the caregiver to make sure that the appropriate treatment is being carried out.

Dr. Soller's recent work lets the sensor give accurate readings not impacted by skin color or body fat, great for international, multi-ethnic and mixed-gender crews in space.

Babs Soller: Some of the light that penetrates into the muscle is absorbed by the small blood vessels or capillaries, and it's the information in the blood that we want to analyze.

Soller actually gets that information from the light that's reflected back out of the skin. She says the data could be helpful to astronauts on spacewalks.