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May 6, 1988

Unearthly Medicine Demands Special Devices

JAMA. 1988;259(17):2514-2515. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720170002002

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IT'S GOING to be some time before space physicians will be able to wave a hand-held box over their patients, à la "Star Trek's" Dr McCoy, and make a diagnosis. Yet, the tools NASA is developing for the Health Maintenance Facility have some of the flavor of science fiction, because they will need to be adapted to the conditions of micro-gravity.

The core diagnostic component of the facility will include capability to do a complete blood count, urinalysis, clinical chemistry and electrolyte measurements, basic microbiology, and diagnostic imaging.

Scientists in NASA's clinical laboratory have been working with private firms to adapt existing technologies to the space environment. Some of these technologies have already been used in space flights; some are being developed specifically for the space station.

Hematologic analyses will be done by placing a sample into a coated capillary tube; the tube is centrifuged and the cells separate into