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4 November 1998
For Immediate Release

Johns Hopkins Device Takes John Glenn's Temperature in Space

It came from space, and now it's returned to space - that's the strange itinerary of a unique device that lies in John Glenn's belly continuously taking his temperature as he orbits the Earth aboard space shuttle Discovery.

As part of his medical experiments, Senator/Astronaut Glenn swallowed a 3/4-inch-long, silicone-coated capsule that contains a tiny telemetry system, a microbattery, and a quartz temperature sensor. These devices had their roots in the work of spacecraft scientists at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., as they invented Transit, the world's first navigation-by-satellite system, more than three decades ago.

Later, when APL biomedical scientists, working on a shoestring $75,000 NASA grant, were asked to develop a device that could be swallowed by astronauts as a way to measure their core body temperature, they borrowed technology from their space colleagues to invent the ingestible temperature capsule.

Once it's swallowed, the biomedical marvel continuously transmits temperature from deep within the body to an external monitor/recorder with an accuracy to within 1/10 of a degree Celsius during the 24 to 78 hours it takes to travel through an astronaut's digestive system.

"The ingestible temperature sensor is a key tool for NASA researchers," says Tag Cutchis, an APL biomedical engineer who helped develop the original technology. "By studying the fluctuation of temperature of other physiological functions, along with sleep patterns, they hope to determine the best times for astronauts to perform their assignments in space."

Medical researchers will also use information provided by the "temperature pill" to increase their understanding of the aging process and its similarity to the physical deconditioning experienced by astronauts in the weightlessness of space.

This space-age medical tool was first employed by Johns Hopkins University veterinarian Dr. Phillip Brown, who used it to monitor an animal's temperature during and immediately after surgery. He said that large animals can be erratic and dangerous coming out of anesthesia, but that with the capsule, "doctors can monitor animals from a safe distance."

The temperature-sensing device was licensed to HTI Technologies, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL., in 1988. Since then, ingestible capsules have been used to monitor the core body temperatures of firefighters as they battle blazes and divers as they work deep in cold waters. The devices have also been used to monitor critical temperatures in paper manufacturing, in food processing, and in jumbo television sets found at sport stadiums.

And now, like John Glenn, the technology that came to prominence early in the Space Age has returned for another trip.

The Applied Physics Laboratory is a not-for-profit laboratory and independent division of The Johns Hopkins University. APL conducts research and development primarily for national security and for nondefense projects of national and global significance. APL is located midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in Laurel, Md.

For more information contact:
For more information, contact APL Public Information Officer Helen Worth; phone: 240-228-5113 or 410-778-5113.         Lawrence Arnold
HTI Technologies, Inc.
Phone: 727-345-2600

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