Medical Research and Technology at Glenn
Ensuring the health, safety, and effective performance of astronauts is vital to the human exploration of space. Radiation and weightlessness can increase an astronaut's risk of developing health problems, such as bone and muscle loss, cataracts, renal stones, vertigo, cancer and more. NASA safeguards astronauts through a combination of exercise, protective gear and limiting the length of missions.
Image left: The Portable Unit for Metabolic Analysis is designed to measure astronaut health and fitness by monitoring their metabolism while they're in space. Credit: NASA
Human Research Program
As the agency prepares to send humans on longer journeys to the moon and eventually Mars, researchers are looking for new and better ways to protect astronaut health. NASA Glenn Research Center's Human Research Program
plays a vital role in providing solutions to critical problems that place human exploration missions and their crews at risk. Glenn's efforts are accomplished in support of the Johnson Space Center, which leads NASA's Human Research Program.
The Glenn Human Research Program's responsibilities include:
- Developing and testing exercise routines and equipment that improve astronaut fitness, reduce required exercise time, and reduce the weight and size of exercise hardware.
- Developing mathematical formulas and simulations for the processes of the human body to help predict health, safety and performance risk during exploration missions.
- Designing medical hardware for crews and analyzing the risks of healthcare delivery during exploration missions.
Throughout the space program, NASA Glenn research and technology have contributed to numerous healthcare improvements, including smaller fiberoptic scopes
for joint surgery and heart pumps
that prolong the lives of patients awaiting transplants.
Image right: The enhanced Zero-gravity Locomotion Simulator is used to study astronaut bone loss. Credit: NASA
The Human Research Program continues to contribute information and devices that enhance the lives of patients around the world. Glenn technologies that offer promising medical innovations include the following:
+ Medical Research and Technology
- A system that allows doctors to monitor the hearts of outpatients and locate patients if cardiac emergencies develop.
- A method for measuring blood glucose without a needle.
- Computational techniques to help physicians instruct osteoporosis patients on avoiding the risk of bone fracture.
- A device for early detection of cataracts, diabetes, Alzheimer's and other diseases that will allow doctors to test new treatments.
- A portable, wireless device that meets the growing demand for monitoring patients with various conditions outside the clinical setting.
- A method of cleaning contaminants from surgical implants that will reduce the number of infections and limit soreness and swelling.