A tiny capsule made of carbon nanotubes promises simple and efficient healthcare for astronauts in cases of acute radiation exposure or extreme stress. As timely transport to medical facilities is complicated from Low Earth Orbit and virtually impossible if missions to the Moon or Mars is considered, these bio capsules, implanted under the skin, may present a way to save astronauts’ lives or to avoid fatal health damage.
So how does it work? Before the scheduled launch, several tiny capsules are surgically implanted under an astronaut’s skin. Each of the capsules is filled with specialized cells responsible for dealing with specific health threats. Once the astronaut’s health is in danger, for example when a major solar radiation event comes along, the appropriate capsule is able to identify the danger and provide treatment. “The cells inside the capsule secrete therapeutic molecules like proteins and peptides. These agents exit the capsule by diffusion across the capsule wall,” explains Dr. David Loftus, a physician scientist at NASA Ames Research Center.
The capsules are incredibly resilient and extremely well tolerated by the body. The porous surface allows medication to pass through but still the structure is strong enough to keep the cells in place. Each capsule contains many doses of medication for a period of several years. Once the entire capsule’s content is used the corpuscle simply stays within the body until it is removed by surgeons on Earth.
But the capsule in not only a medical breakthrough for human space flight, it can also open completely new horizons for on Earth handling of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, hemophilia or severe allergies. Imagine a severe diabetes sufferer being freed from a regular obligation of injecting himself with insulin. The capsule filled with pancreatic islet cells could not only take provide timely and accurate medication, it could also constantly monitor the blood sugar level. The danger of slipping into diabetic comma during sleep would therefore be eradicated. The bio capsule treatment can also be used for brain tumor treatment, or allergy and hemophilia control.
The NASA Ames Research Center based team foresees animal trials beginning in 2012 or 2013, followed by human trials soon afterwards. If everything goes well, astronauts may benefit from the miraculous body repairing corpuscle within 10 years. Dr. Loftus hopes that by 2025 the first application can be used here on Earth.
Below you can see the video report about NASA’s recent invention.