When astronauts stay on the International Space Station (ISS) for long-duration missions, they experience several health complications, including bone loss, space anemia, and bone marrow changes.
The effects of microgravity on blood production and bone health are not felt when astronauts are in space, but become apparent after they return to Earth. Therefore, it is very important to monitor the health of astronauts.
NASA has successfully tested a portable medical diagnostic device aboard the ISS that will help astronauts monitor their health by assessing their physical condition.
Experts from NASA’s Human Research Program Exploration Medical Capability (ExMC) team recently successfully tested the Reusable Handheld Electrolyte and Laboratory Technology for Humans (rHEALTH) ONE biomedical analyzer in a technology demonstration. It is a wearable device that uses laser technology to diagnose disease or injury, the space agency says on its website.
How does rHEALTH work?
The device was launched in the orbital laboratory in February. It is a miniature flow cytometer that can detect cells and other biomarkers to assess biological changes.
A flow cytometer is a device that uses lasers as light sources to produce both diffuse and fluorescent light signals that are read by detectors. The signals are converted into electronic signals which are read by a computer.
rHEALTH was subjected to a series of tests on the space station over two days by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
What medical conditions do astronauts experience?
NASA’s ExMC group is working to provide medical devices and capabilities for astronauts to use in reconnaissance flights. The team adapted the rHEALTH analyzer for use in microgravity.