“SCAN uses non-invasive and non-destructive ultrasound to image bone. It will allow us to identify weak regions, to make a diagnosis and to assist in healing fractures,” said Qin, who is also the director of the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Laboratory at Stony Brook University - State University of New York.Stress-related fractures are a big concern for astronauts during long missions to the moon or in space. Qin said the fracture rate could be high on the moon due to workload force, heavy spacesuits and gravity that is one-sixth of Earth’s.
Meanwhile, the group is continuing development of the therapeutic portion of the technology. On Earth, it takes six weeks to heal a fracture in normal conditions. The healing process may take longer in space. He said the device will help accelerate fracture healing by stimulating bone regeneration.
Ultrasound has been used to heal fractures, but it has not been effective due to its lack of accuracy at the fracture site. This is where Qin’s guided approach will be beneficial. “We are trying to use ultrasound technology as a way to get an image of the fracture site,” Qin said. “An integrated probe will directly shoot ultrasound into the region of the fracture. We hope this will result in effective acceleration of fracture healing.”
SCAN technology will be an ideal tool for health care providers on Earth who are dealing with an increasing elderly population and for those in rural areas where access to medical facilities is limited. In addition to being small and easier to use than X-ray based bone density measurement machines, the ultrasound device could be as much as 10-times cheaper to purchase and operate. “If we can provide a cost-effective, easy to operate machine at the doctor’s office, then they can monitor patients at minimal cost,” Qin said. “Also, it is non-invasive and non-destructive. People are not hesitant to get additional tests.”
Qin’s project is one of nine currently in the NSBRI Smart Medical Systems and Technology Team’s portfolio devoted to developing new integrated medical systems to assist in delivering quality health care in space. Other areas being researched include space surgery and supporting techniques, routine risk and health-monitoring systems, and automated systems and devices to aid in decision-making, training and diagnosis. The new systems will have immediate benefits for health care on Earth.
NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight. The Institute’s science, technology and education projects take place at more than 60 institutions across the United States.
Brad Thomas | NSBRI
Further reports about: > Earth's magnetic field > Earth’s surface > NSBRI > Scan > Scanning Confocal Acoustic Navigation > X-ray microscopy > bone disorder diagnosis > bone mineral > fracture healing > health risk > health-monitoring systems > long-duration spaceflights > risk of fracture > smart bridges > ultrasound technology
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