OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - A Central Florida company is helping to solve an out-of-this-world problem. It came up with a tiny device that would allow astronauts to do blood tests in space.
For years, the company Imec has been working on a compact, lens-free microscope. Now, the tiny device could be heading to space.
"Definitely the interest of NASA is super exciting for all of us. All the researchers are really excited to get these tests going," said Dr. Veerle Reumers, the research and development manager at Imec.
The prototype is being worked on in Osceola County's Neo-city, an up-and-coming technology area. The device gives you the ability to do your own blood samples and get immediate results.
"We can actually see how many red blood cells, how many white blood cells are in the sample," Dr. Reumers said.
All the work starts with a little cartridge. It’s actually a chip inside that tests your blood and reads it for you.
"It’s just a finger prick. You can put the sample on the device and it will run everything automatically," said Dr. Reumers, just by putting the cartridge in the microscope and plugging the microscope into your computer.
Developers say astronauts take blood samples every few days, but right now those samples have to be shipped back to Earth for testing. That can take time.
"So there’s actually no analysis being done," Dr. Reumbers said.
That's why Imec recently received a grant from NASA to test the device in a parabolic flight, which is a reduced-gravity flight, to see how and if it works in zero gravity. If it does, NASA wants it.
The test is set to happen in the next 18 months. If proven successful, the little microscope could travel thousands of miles away and potentially save lives in space.