Reduced-gravity doesn't faze NASA-funded rHEALTH micro-fluidics sensor - Small Times
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Reduced-gravity doesn't faze NASA-funded rHEALTH micro-fluidics sensor

(December 16, 2010 - PRNewswire) -- The DNA Medicine Institute (DMI) successfully completed reduced-gravity experiments on its rHEALTH sensor for the 2010 Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology (FAST) program, at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Houston, Texas, at the end of September.

The rHEALTH sensor uses a microfluidics chip designed to extract a multitude of diagnostic information from a single drop of blood. Although designed for use in reduced-gravity environments in space, the lab-on-a-chip technology can be applied to real-time health monitoring at patient's bedside or in a doctor's office, and allow for real-time clinical intervention in acute situations. It was one of 17 technology demonstration projects, from 10 different states, for reduced-gravity aircraft flights. The DMI device was subject to zero, lunar, and 1.8 g conditions for periods up to 25 seconds in a Boeing 727 airplane flying repeated parabolic trajectories. A joint team from DMI and NASA's Glenn Research Center (GRC) successfully performed experiments on the rHEALTH platform, which included sample loading, mixing, and detection. The device operated without fail on all four lunar and zero-gravity flights.

The team tested a range of experiments including sample loading, microfluidic mixing, and detection on the aircraft under reduced gravity conditions. The technology was controlled by a laptop computer and custom software.

"The reduced gravity tests from NASA's FAST 2010 program provided simulated conditions for implementation of the rHEALTH technology in space. The ability to successfully operate this technology on the parabolic flights also mean that the device is rugged and robust in environments with vibration and variable g-forces, which may be seen in many emergent clinical scenarios here on Earth," said Eugene Y. Chan, M.D., president and chief scientific officer of the DNA Medicine Institute.

NASA's FAST program is designed to demonstrate whether emerging technologies can perform as expected in the reduced-gravity environment of the moon and Mars, or the Earth orbit's zero-gravity environment, thus allowing the incorporation of new technologies into the agency's flight programs and other commercial aerospace applications. It can also reduce the risk of using new technologies during space missions by providing an opportunity to prove how they work in a reduced-gravity environment, providing insight, before expensive testing, into the reasons some technologies may fail.

Other NASA uses of MEMS include near-IR portable spectrometry. To learn more, read: Water on the moon? NASA MEMS-based Phazir spectrometer chat with Steve Senturia

For a complete list of NASA's 17 selected FAST projects, their associated leading organizations, partners and information about previous FAST flights, visit

DMI utilizes an interdisciplinary, multi-faceted approach to innovation that draws upon diverse and disparate fields including medicine, nanotechnology, genomics, biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and advanced engineering. For more on the rHEALTH test, visit

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