Top 5 Innovations by NASA in Biomedical Engineering

When we talk about NASA, it’s not always the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research. Yes, the recent launch of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover has been phenomenal. People often argue, what has NASA actually done for us? Sending robots to other planets and controlling from Earth doesn’t give me anything. Is that what you think? (Ok. May be not). So, I came across some answers to this question and found details about the technologies and innovations that have emerged out of research and development at NASA. Here are the contributions in the healthcare field:

5. Adam Kissiah’s Cochlear Implant

After having a profound hearing loss, he developed the cochlear implant, a device that has restored hearing for thousands, and allowed others born deaf to hear for the first time. Kissiah had no medical training, but used expertise learned as an electronics instrumentation engineer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Here’s Adam Kissiah’s biography.

4. Detection of Cataracts

NASA researcher Dr. Rafat Ansari was working on experiments studying small particles suspended in liquids when he realized that his work could possibly help detect cataracts, the degenerative eye condition afflicting his father. Now the instrument is being adapted to identify other eye diseases, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s. As a child in Pakistan, he decided to become a scientist because he saw people walking on the moon. Here’s an old article on his research.

3. Lifeshears – Rescue tool and a Heart Pump

This is a rescue tool which quickly cuts debris to free accident victims, using the same power source used to separate Solid Rocket Boosters from the Shuttle. Also, a lifesaving heart pump, used to keep patients alive while they’re waiting for a transplant. Here’s the article.

2. Attention Getter

Techniques used to measure brain activity in NASA pilots are being used to improve attention spans for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

1. Early Detection of Breast Cancer

An unintended outcome of the research surrounding the Hubble Space Telescope has been a technology that could be used in the early detection of breast cancer. And Hubble’s war on cancer doesn’t end there. A silicon chip originally developed for the Telescope makes the breast screenings less painful, less scarring, and less expensive than the traditional biopsy.

Here is a nice animation on How Space Technology Improves Human Health.

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