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Imec awarded NASA grant to advance space health diagnostics

Imec will test a technology for monitoring astronauts’ health status under zero gravity conditions using NASA funding.

miDiagnostics’ disposable blood testing device will be evaluated by imec for use in zero gravity environments, with imec designing test parameters and performing experiments in different gravity scenarios.

The miDiagnostics device is built around a silicon-based nanofluidic processor that performs a series of blood sample manipulations yielding a cell blood count with fast turnaround time. The aim here is for an easily deployable medical device with minimal instrumentation.

“Human exploration into deep space requires the development of medical devices and diagnostics of small mass, volume and power requirements, designed for a more autonomous practice of medicine,” explained Susana Zanello, research and development manager at imec’s design and principal investigator on the project.

The existing research prototype by miDiagnostics can perform a complete cell blood count (CBC) from only drops of blood. In other configurations, the same platform will enable accurate and instantaneous point-of-need diagnostics for a suite of cellular, biochemical and molecular tests.

“The device is currently in development for standard earth-based conditions, but it should also function in gravity-independent environments, as it relies solely on capillary forces,” commented Peter Peumans, VP life sciences technologies at imec and CTO of miDiagnostics.

Imec will test the device in parabolic flight, which offers different gravitational loads. This specific environment will allow testing of the functionality of the nanofluidic system despite zero gravity conditions.

Charlotte Hathway

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