A high-resolution ultrasound-based portable device will help physicians calculate bone loss in space travelers, according to researchers at NASA’s National Space Biomedical Research Institute. While focused on space-related health issues, NSBRI findings may translate into help for earth-bound patients with similar conditions.
A high-resolution ultrasound-based portable device will help physicians calculate bone loss in space travelers, according to researchers at NASA's National Space Biomedical Research Institute. While focused on space-related health issues, NSBRI findings may translate into help for earth-bound patients with similar conditions.
Studies of cosmonauts and astronauts who completed lengthy missions aboard the space station Mir showed that humans can sustain an average 2% loss of bone mass every month. The lower extremities and hips generally bear the brunt of bone loss and become particularly susceptible to fracture upon return to earth.
The technology, called Scanning Confocal Acoustic Diagnostic System (SCAD), will monitor bone density and strength outside the earth's gravitational pull. It will help physicians on the ground determine the rate of bone loss and severity of injuries sustained in space, as well as appropriate recovery planning, said Dr. Yi-Xian Qin, an associate team leader of NSBRI's development group.
"We are currently in the beginning phases of development, but eventually this technology can aid diagnosis for a number of skeletal disorders," Qin said.
Compared with FDA-approved quantitative ultrasound (QUS) technology clinically available for diagnosing osteoporosis, SCAD provides an image-based assessment of bone strength in a region of interest. The device, created by researchers at the Stony Brook University's department of biomedical engineering in New York, can increase ultrasound's accuracy and reduce noise from soft tissue by providing a real-time mapping of the bone.
In addition to its uses inflight, researchers anticipate SCAD could help physicians in several clinical fields improve the early diagnosis of conditions like osteopenia and osteoporosis, which are difficult to diagnose during their initial stages.
The SCAD project complements several other NSBRI studies looking into other space health concerns, including sleep and psychosocial disorders, muscle waste, cardiovascular changes, balance and orientation problems, and radiation exposure.
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