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Babs Soller: Remote Sensors for Medical Feedback

Babs Soller: Remote Sensors for Medical Feedback

Dr. Babs Soller uses a needle-free sensor system to measure blood and tissue chemistry.
© L. Barry Hetherington, NSBRI

Babs R. Soller, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, leads the Smart Medical Systems Team for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). Dr. Soller has been developing a needle-free system to monitor blood and tissue chemistry.

The system is based on the ability of near-infrared light to penetrate skin—regardless of skin color—fat and muscle. A small unit placed on the skin emits near infrared light into the body. Some of this light then reflects back and is measured by the device.

The amount of light returning indicates blood and tissue chemistry. Astronauts could use the device to measure their metabolic rate, in real time, while on space walks or during other mission activities. A metabolic rate that is too high could indicate the need for an astronaut to reduce his or her activity level, thereby prolonging the space suit's oxygen supply.

This needle-free system monitoring system has potential applications for patients on Earth as well. For instance, it could provide a simple way to detect internal bleeding and help patients with fragile veins.

Short Version

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Long Version

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Lessons

Grades 3-8

  • Heart and Lungs (exercise and breathing)
    Dr. Soller believes that noninvasive measurement of metabolic rate will provide instant, useful feedback for astronauts as they strive to maintain metabolic efficiency in space and on the Moon. In this activity, students measure and record their heart and breathing rates before and after physical activity.


Grades 5-9

  • Muscles Fibers
    The sensor developed by Dr. Soller uses near-infrared light to penetrate directly into muscles. Learn about muscle structure with this classroom activity.