Through a new method of technology transfer, a NASA innovation is helping doctors diagnose brain conditions.
When you think of a beating heart, you might assume it beats at regular intervals. In actuality, velocity and pressure change with every beat, and the time between each beat is different. Now a NASA-developed technology is helping researchers understand blood flow and pressure in ways that may improve treatment for victims of brain injury and stroke.
Dr. Norden Huang, a scientist and mathematician at Goddard Space Flight Center, invented a set of algorithms for analyzing signals that vary, like those of a heartbeat. Dubbed the Hilbert-Huang Transform (HHT), Huang designed the technology for testing and damage detection for the space shuttle orbiters and other structures and vehicles. However, the applications outside of NASA are nearly limitless. For example, the HHT method can assist in highway noise reduction, submarine design, and speech and sound recognition analysis.
In This Next Lot … A Potentially Life-saving Technology
When NASA was founded, the U.S. Congress required that the Agency work to make its technologies available to the public. Goddard experimented—successfully—with a new approach to transferring NASA technology to the public by placing a handful of licenses to its patents up for auction. At an auction managed by Ocean Tomo Federal Services LLC, an intellectual property auction house, a portfolio including the HHT was sold to DynaDx Corporation of Mountain View, California.
DynaDx is now using the licensed NASA technology for medical diagnosis and prediction of brain blood flow-related problems, such as stroke, dementia, and traumatic brain injury.
Through the course of normal, everyday activities, blood in the brain is shifted around to different sections, according to where it is needed for that activity. When a person suffers from a brain injury or other condition, the body often will not regulate blood flow to the brain, leading to cognitive difficulties. For example, a person who has suffered a traumatic brain injury may not be able to complete two tasks at the same time, even something as commonplace as tying shoes and holding a conversation simultaneously. The quick detection and monitoring of the development of a brain condition can help limit the extent of the damage and the time needed to rehabilitate.
From Outer to Inner Space
Using DynaDx’s HHT-based process, clinicians can predict changes in intracranial pressure in patients, itself an important indicator of neurological status. And since the technology is noninvasive and simple to use, it can be employed in triage settings, alerting caregivers of changes in stroke or brain injury victims. This can result in the patient being sent to the operating room earlier if necessary, a potentially lifesaving decision.
Researchers are also using the NASA spinoff technology to study the effects of ageing on the body’s ability to control the relationship between blood pressure and blood flow in the brain. This work on geriatric patients can also be used to help researchers and doctors know more about other brain blood flow disorders, like those stemming from brain injuries and stroke.
Not a bad return for NASA’s first technology auction.
To learn more about this NASA spinoff, read the original article