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 TechNeed Challenge

Seeking: Methods and equipment for non-invasive intra-cranial pressure measurement and monitoring

NASA logo.

NASA is seeking novel, non-invasive technological approaches for intra-cranial pressure measurement for use in humans both while in space and on the ground.

Even after fifty years, manned spaceflight still imposes unknown stresses on the human body. For example, the human eye undergoes changes in shape after experiencing extended periods of micro-gravity, and these changes affect vision. One hypothesis is that alterations in intra-cranial pressure are responsible for these and other physiological manifestations experienced on-orbit. NASA, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, needs a monitoring system to test this hypothesis.

The aim is to find a novel, non-invasive technological approach to intra-cranial pressure (ICP) measurement. NASA prefers new technologies, but variations of existing technologies that represent major improvements relevant to the extreme environments of space and planetary exploration will be considered. Conventional hospital-setting equipment, instrumentation intended to be miniaturized, and for-medical-care applications by trained but non-medical personnel for use in remote environments will also be considered.

Measuring intra-cranial pressure. Image (c) Microsoft Inc.

Non-invasive measurement and repeatability are top requirements, including the ability to establish a baseline pressure measurement without invasive methods. The intention is for a baseline to be established on the ground, and then for periodic measurements to be taken during flight — possibly over several months to a year. For consistency, it is important for the same technology to be used both on the ground and in space, but NASA acknowledges the size and weight restrictions that spaceflight imposes. Different device configurations are acceptable for ground and flight use, as long as they employ the same underlying technology.

The method and equipment must operate independent of gravity and acceleration. Additionally, for flight, minimal mass, minimal power usage, and minimal physical volume are preferred — “portable” is a good general description. Training and time for use should impose minimal loads on flight personnel. Materials and designs for space flight should anticipate the potential for high radiation exposure.

Direct measure of ICP is not necessary, as long as there is a provable correlation between the measurement being taken and an absolute value of ICP. The method must be non-invasive and must require no calibration to deliver accurate measurements over extended periods of time. (A low-energy flight time to Mars may last two years.)

Constraints

There are some restrictions on your proposed solutions:

  • NASA is not looking for theory and ideation. This need is for method and equipment. A prototype is acceptable at this stage of the search.
  • The technology must deliver an absolute measurement of intra-cranial pressure. Prefer that the device does not need to be calibrated with an invasive lumbar puncture procedure.
  • Must operate independent of gravity and acceleration.
  • Must show potential for diagnostic performance; but devices validated in research also will be considered. The proposed miniaturized/portable solution does not have to meet current hospital-level diagnostic standards, but it must be safe for human use (FDA approval preferred, plan for FDA approval acceptable). Both portable and non-portable options will be considered.
  • Diagnostic degree of validation is necessary. For portable options, miniaturization level should be attained before being tested in flight.
  • Prefer equipment with minimal size, weight, and power consumption.
  • NASA is not looking for or expecting to find flight-ready hardware. NASA expects to modify or adapt any devices.

Technologies currently under consideration and evaluation include: pulsed phased locked loop (PPLL), cerebral and cochlear fluid pressure analyzer (CCFP) and two-depth Doppler.

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