HomeNews & MediaPress ReleasesPress Release 
June 3, 2004
For Immediate Release

Media Contact
Helen Worth
JHU Applied Physics Laboratory
Phone: 240-228-5113 or 443-778-5113

NSBRI Funds Two Biomedical Projects at Johns Hopkins APL

The National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Houston, has approved funding for two biomedical projects at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. The projects - two of 48 selected from 111 proposals - will continue the Institute's research to resolve the health and medical challenges related to long-duration space missions.

"As our nation looks toward longer space missions and exploration of the moon and Mars, these projects tightly focus on the health issues, technologies, and medical assessment and care needed for such missions," says Dr. Jeffrey P. Sutton, NSBRI director.

APL, along with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, is a charter member of NSBRI, a NASA-sponsored consortium headed by the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, which has expanded from seven to 12 members since it was formed in 1997. Research is performed in 11 areas with research teams seeking ways to prevent or solve problems related to weightlessness and increased exposure to radiation during prolonged space travel.

APL's newly funded projects include:

  • A Ground-Based Clinical System using Advanced Multiple Projection Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry principles to go beyond bone densitometry to measure the structural mechanics of bones and muscles. By providing high-precision scans of astronauts before and after space flights, the system will be able to monitor musculoskeletal strength and the effectiveness of countermeasures. The project is funded for four years.

Project Director Harry K. Charles, who heads APL's Technical Services Department, says, "This research in addition to having significant benefit to astronaut health could have a much larger impact on clinical medicine, especially in monitoring and assessing the efficacy of treatments for the millions of people who suffer from osteoporosis and other disorders that degrade bone strength."

  • A prototype Combined Ion and Neutron Spectrometer that will improve on existing charged particle species and energy spectrometers. It will provide a single and complete ionizing radiation environment monitor for application in space habitats and transport vehicles. Researchers expect that the instrument will be the ultimate radiation environment monitor for manned space missions. Richard H. Maurer heads the 4-year project.

Other NSBRI-funded projects at APL include:

  • Space MRI - a proof-of-concept engineering model of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging system for use in space. With minimum mass and power, the system will provide high-resolution, high-quality anatomical information without ionizing radiation so that it can be used repeatedly to track changes without harm to the body. Isaac N. Bankman heads the project, which runs until September 2005.
  • Miniature Mass Spectrometer - a miniature Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer that will be used as a medical diagnostic system during space flights to monitor human physiological functions routinely and noninvasively. The device will allow examination of individuals in real time while in orbit, as opposed to waiting until their return to Earth as is currently done. Richard S. Potember heads the project, which runs until September 2004.

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For information, visit www.jhuapl.edu. For more information on NSBRI, visit www.nsbri.org.