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Wireless wonder monitors health of explorers

NASA scientists developed a lightweight device that lets physicians monitor the health and safety of explorers in remote locations on Earth. In the future, it may see use in space to check astronauts during space travel.

The wireless LifeGuard system watches vitals such as heart rate, blood pressure, EKG, breath rate, and temperature. It also measures human movements in 3D.

“Recently, we did experiments aboard NASA's KC-135 aircraft that flies big, roller-coasterlike maneuvers to create short periods of weightlessness,” says Dr. Gregory Kovacs of Stanford University. “During the flights, we explored the body's vital signs, response to changing gravitational forces, and transmitted the wireless data from the subject to another location in the plane,” he adds. “The experiments were quite successful.”

The data logger device is palm size and weighs 6 oz. Button sensors on the skin take EKG and breathing rate. An arm cuff measures blood pressure. The data logger also connects to a sensor wrapped on an index finger to measure oxygen in the blood and pulse rate. A transmitter beams collected data to a base station computer.

The LifeGuard system could be used to broadcast vital signs of patients being transported to hospitals, as well as to monitor the health of firefighters and hazardous-material workers on the job.

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