Some health assessments that are routinely carried out on Earth are not practical when the "patients" are free-floating astronauts on long space flights, such as missions to Mars or the Moon. A new, NASA-funded study from the University of Houston department of health and human performance will examine how well sweat patches the size of adhesive strips can detect levels of chemicals that may indicate bone loss.
"Current assessments involve blood tests, urine analysis or bone density scans, all of which are time-consuming, inconvenient to the working astronauts or, in the case of bone density scans, require large equipment that's not practical on a space station," said Mark Clarke, associate professor and principal investigator. "These patches are small, non-intrusive, and placed on the skin to collect a sweat sample. The sample is then analyzed for biomarkers of bone loss markers, such as calcium."
The three-year, $780,000 study will examine three types of sweat patches, each differing in the way the sweat is collected and extracted from the devices. One device collects the sweat between the skin and a plastic layer; another is a commercially used patch that absorbs the sweat and is then reconstituted with water. The third is called a Microfabricated Sweat Patch (MSP) built using micro-chip inspired-technology. Sweat is removed from the MSP using a mini-centrifuge. The technology was developed by Clarke and Daniel Feeback, a lead scientist with NASA's Life Science Directorate.
"Our goal is to develop a micro-fabricated sweat patch that collects a sweat sample from the skin, performs a biomarker analysis and immediately provides a read-out to the user," said Clarke. The first phase of the study will determine if sweat can be used to monitor bone loss. Next, it will determine which patch technology most accurately measures the chemicals associated with bone loss.
The last phase
|Contact: Marisa Ramirez|
University of Houston