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Human Research Program

Multi-Use Near-Infrared Spectroscopy System for Spaceflight Health Applications

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Multi-Use Near-Infrared Spectroscopy System for Spaceflight Health Applications
While ultrasound has proved invaluable for a wide variety of medical assessments during spaceflight, it is largely blind to two important aspects of human physiology: blood oxygenation and blood volume. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), in contrast, is highly sensitive to blood oxygenation and volume, and hence has multiple medical uses ranging from the gold standard of pulse oximetry, to tissue oxygenation and perfusion, to imaging of brain function, hemorrhage, or ischemia. Currently, the only related measurement available in flight is pulse oximetry, and hence NIRS could be a key complement to ultrasound for spaceflight medical use. Importantly, a single NIRS system could support all of the above applications, while using non-ionizing near-infrared light, and remaining non-invasive, low power, and highly portable. Existing NIRS systems, however, are ill-suited to spaceflight (large, heavy, and consume too much power) and many are also incapable of imaging.

FINAL REPORTING--FEBRUARY 2015

Our objective of this project was to develop and test a new NIRS system, NINscan-M: a multi-use, mobile device with the following capabilities: (1) imaging of regional tissue hemodynamics, including brain function, (2) point measurements of oxygenation suitable for muscle assessment, and (3) tissue oximetry. NINscan-M is an embedded microcontroller system, based on our laboratory's series of prototype non-imaging NIRS devices designed for mobile and long-duration monitoring. In addition to the NIRS capabilities above, the system also includes the ability to record up to 12 synchronized, auxiliary data streams (both analog and digital) for monitoring cardiac, brain, and skeletal muscle electrical activity, motion, force production, and temperature to further enhance its domain of application. These capabilities can fill various key roles in spaceflight medical assessment, and could help address gaps in at least eight Human Research Roadmap (HRP) – Integrated Research Plan (IRP) risk categories: spaceflight-induced intracranial hypertension, recognizing injured or ill crewmembers, muscle status monitoring, orthostatic intolerance assessment, detection or monitoring of behavioral or psychiatric conditions, effects of radiation on the central nervous system, sleep loss, and cardiac effects of spaceflight.

NINscan-M was designed to enable NIRS as well as auxiliary sensors to be flown and used singly or in combination, as indicated by medical operations requirements. It is operated by a single on/off switch, and a Bluetooth wireless communication capability was integrated to enable real-time monitoring of data streams. Human testing of the system demonstrated: (1) the ability to simultaneously acquire 64-channel NIRS imaging data along with electrocardiography (ECG), electromyography (EMG) and electro-oculography (EOG), tri-axial accelerometry, force, and temperature data; (2) imaging of muscle oxygen utilization and blood volume with synchronized measurement of force production during isometric muscle contractions to help assess muscle strength and endurance; and (3) imaging regional changes in brain activity in lateral prefrontal cortex associated with working memory tasks. NINscan-M thus provides new capabilities, complementary to those currently available in-flight, which are important for medical assessments across a wide variety of spaceflight medical conditions.

ANNUAL REPORTING IN OCTOBER 2014

Our central objective is to develop and test a new NIRS system, NINscan M: a multi-use, mobile device with three distinct NIRS capabilities: (1) imaging of regional tissue oxygenation, perfusion and hemodynamics, including brain function, (2) point measurements of oxygenation suitable for muscle assessment, and (3) tissue oximetry.

The NINscan M is an embedded microcontroller system, based on our laboratory's series of prototype non-imaging NIRS devices designed for mobile and long-duration monitoring. In addition to the three NIRS capabilities above, the system also includes the ability to record up to 12 synchronized, auxiliary data streams for monitoring cardiac, brain, and skeletal muscle electrical activity, motion, force production, and temperature to further enhance its diagnostic value. These capabilities can fill various key roles in spaceflight medical assessment, and could help address gaps in at least eight Human Research Roadmap risk categories: spaceflight-induced intracranial hypertension, recognizing injured or ill crewmembers, muscle status monitoring, orthostatic intolerance assessment, detection or monitoring of behavioral or psychiatric conditions, effects of radiation on the central nervous system, sleep loss, and cardiac effects of spaceflight. The system design will enable the NIRS and auxiliary sensors to be flown and used singly or in combination, as indicated by medical operations requirements. To minimize the data management burdens for astronauts, NINscan M will be designed to seamlessly integrate with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI)-supported SmartMED platform for automatically detecting, consolidating, storing, communicating, and displaying biomedical and environmental data. Once developed, we will thoroughly characterize the NINscan M system, and perform human testing for: (1) sensitivity and specificity to changes in blood volume and oxygenation when imaging skin perfusion (shallow layers) and imaging brain function (deep tissue), and (2) the ability to quantify muscle force production and oxygen extraction to assess muscle performance.

During development, we will continue working with International Space Station Medical Project (ISSMP) Element to ensure the resulting system is designed and developed within the constraints and requirements for spaceflight hardware and software. NINscan M will thus provide new capabilities, complementary to those currently available in-flight, which are important for medical assessments across a wide variety of spaceflight medical conditions.

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