NASA Heart Research

NASA’s Spin-Offs for Cardiac Medicine

The quest for knowledge and the desire for exploration has resulted in the development of new technologies to allow astronauts to explore outer space in safety. These advancements are eventually picked up by other companies to use here on on Earth to improve our quality of life. Here are some examples of cardiac products that initially came from a NASA idea to improve space travel.

Patient Monitoring Systems:

Cardiac monitoring systems are seen on virtually all intensive care and heart rehabilitation wards, however many aren’t aware that the technology originated in the 1960’s from the systems used to monitor astronauts during the first space missions. As a direct result of this technology, a single nurse now has the ability to monitor the ECG’s on several patients at once.

Programmable Pacemaker:

This technology originated from the development of communications between orbiting satellites and earth. Released in 1995, the Trilogy cardiac pacemaker was the fourth generation of a unit developed in the 1970s by NASA, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and St. Jude Medical’s Cardiac Rhythm Management Division.

The pacemaker incorporated bidirectional telemetry used for space communications, small implantable pulse generators from space microminiaturization, and longer-life batteries from technology for spacecraft electrical power systems.

CT and MRI Technology:

Digital signal-processing techniques are used to recreate images in CT and MRI imaging. This technology was developed to computer-enhance pictures of the Moon for the Apollo Program.
Digital Cardiac Imaging System:
This was a spin-off picked up from Philips Medical Systems International to significantly improve real-time cardiac imaging and the ability to employ image enhancement techniques to bring out added details. The technology was developed for NASA Earth resources survey satellites from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Temper Foam:

Originally designed back in 1966 to improve shock and impact protection for NASA pilots, the foam is regularly used today on patient mattresses in the Cath Lab. It’s important feature is its ability to match the contour of the body part against it, evenly distributing weight over the entire body area, thereby reducing pressure sores. Once the pressure is removed it slowly returns to its original shape.
Advice: Perfect for long cases such as EP studies.

Medical Gas Analyzer:

Originally developed for spacecraft use when monitoring astronaut’s respiratory gases in NASA’s Gemini and Apollo program. Today the technology is used in operating rooms for the analysis of anaesthetic gases and measurement of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen concentrations. It assures that the patient undergoing surgery has the proper breathing environment.

Artificial Heart:

Originally used in the Space Shuttle fuel pumps, NASA worked with renowned heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey to develop a miniaturized ventricular assist pump. It is currently undergoing clinical trials in Europe.

Medical Telemetry:

Originally developed for space operation telemetry, the technology is now regularly used to transmit medical data between emergency vehicles and hospitals. For example, an electrocardiogram from an ambulance to a hospital enables physicians to read and advise ambulance attendants on emergency procedures.

Patient Oxygen Intake

Originally designed to monitor metabolic health in astronauts, a US company, the Cleveland Clinic and NASA are working to release a new device to measure patient oxygen intake, that is significantly smaller and weighs less than anything on the market.

Medication Management

NASA provided funding to a US company to develop a biomedical device that could monitor the health of astronauts. The spin-off is a lightweight, compact, wireless device for home health monitoring called vMetrics. For people with chronic cardiovascular disease the device forms part of a anti-coagulation management system.




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