Center for Space Medicine

Miniaturizing Health Assessments in Space


Medical Diagnostics in Microgravity

Above our heads, NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken are testing out a new portable device to run diagnostic tests from one drop of blood. The investigation onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, and is furthering the “space readiness” of technology from 1Drop Diagnostics.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) supported 1Drop Diagnostics to expand their test platform to include new biomarkers for liver and kidney function. With the new study onboard the ISS, we’ll learn more about the potential for deploying portable blood testing on the way to Mars.

“This flight study moves the overall technology forward, so that we could potentially use it in deep space exploration missions,” said TRISH’s Deputy Chief Scientist Emmanuel Urquieta, M.D. “It’s is a win-win for healthcare in space and on Earth.”

Next-generation medical diagnostics

Exposure to long-duration spaceflight is a challenge for the immune system. It increases risks for adverse health events such as reactivation of latent viruses, development of rashes, hypersensitivity and diseases. Understanding astronaut’s blood composition is critical to diagnosing these medical conditions. Yet space and time are constrained on a spacecraft. A device designed with a small footprint is vital to monitor the health of astronauts for any signs of an altered immune response. 

Dr. Luc Gervais, founder and CEO of 1Drop Diagnostics, and his team developed a portable point-of-care blood analysis device that measures biomarkers from a tiny drop of blood. The sample is applied onto a 64-channel microarray cartridge and inserted into a reader that performs analysis of proteins, peptides and nucleotides. Results can be instantly stored and shared with the care team. The device needed to be miniaturized and the manufacturing process of the cartridges needed to be improved. 

The Future Of Space Health 

The 1Drop device was successfully redesigned into a smaller, streamlined design with the ability to measure biomarkers of cardiovascular function, but also kidney and liver function as well. 1Drop offers improvements in compared to current i-STAT blood analysis capability aboard the International Space Station. This technology offers a new easy-to-use analysis platform that guides health providers to monitor and adjust treatments and quickly receive a full picture of health. 

See more TRISH Innovations