An anonymous reader sends this story about medical research in zero-gravity environments. Many earth-based treatments need to be adapted for use in space, and anatomical behaviors can change in subtle and unpredictable ways as well. This research aims to protect astronauts and future generations of space-goers from conditions that are easily treatable on the ground. The ultrasound machine the students are testing would be well suited for space missions. It is light and compact, requires very little medical training to use, and the probe can stay in the body for 72 hours at a time. But the technology has only ever been used on Earth, and no one knows whether it would function correctly in zero gravity. The most significant concern is that microgravity will cause the probe to drift out of position. The team's mentor, cardiac surgeon and space medicine specialist Peter Lee, tells me that an ultrasound probe that sits in the esophagus is an ideal diagnostic tool for extended spaceflights. "If an astronaut far from Earth were to have a cardiovascular event, or for some reason became incapacitated and had to be on a ventilator, there's no imaging currently available [in space] that provides continuous images of the heart," he says. "You can use [external] ultrasound, but the technician has to be there the whole time to hold it on the chest."
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