Travis AFB hosts clinical research for NASA’s newly developed medical technology

NASA representatives presented new medical diagnostic technology, the E-Nose Breathalyzer, to members of David Grant USAF Medical Center Oct. 21, 2020, at Travis Air Force Base.

The E-Nose Breathanalyzer, under development at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, will have the capability of analyzing compounds found within a person’s breath to diagnose a battery of illnesses and abnormalities including respiratory illnesses, infectious diseases and cardiovascular conditions. As the science continues to be explored, the breath analyzer may one day be used to diagnose cancer. Travis AFB Airmen are hosting the NASA technology and collaborative research at the DGMC clinical investigation facility.

“The technology is designed to make rapid measurements, in less than 5 minutes, at the point of care, in a way that is completely non-invasive. When fully realized, the NASA E-Nose will open a new realm of medical care to both the warfighter and potential space travelers,” said Dr. David Loftus, NASA Ames Research Center medical officer and principal investigator of the Space Biosciences Research Branch.

“The technology itself is handheld,” Loftus said. “This makes it valuable not only to the U.S. Air Force during aeromedical evacuation, but also to NASA, as a tool for monitoring the health of astronauts far from medical centers on Earth. Human exploration of space, to the Moon and Mars, will require compact medical diagnostics technologies that can be ruggedized for field use. The Air Force and other branches of the military share this requirement.”

Loftus, who visited Travis AFB two years ago on a search for facilities that would best advance the capabilities of the E-Nose toward its eventual clinical application, cites the base’s robust testing capabilities as the reason it was chosen.

“We like to think of Travis (AFB) as the bridge between benchtop and bedside,” Loftus said. “Its ability to perform the necessary tests needed to ensure the feasibility and practical use of this technology really formed the connective tissue that allowed it to go from an idea to a usable device, capable of improving the lives of countless people.”

The mission of improving lives is one that both NASA and DGMC have in common.

This new technology not only has the potential to improve care for warfighters, but for the nation’s civilian population as well, said Dr. Bradley Williams, 60th Medical Group clinical research administrator.

“As with past technology that has been developed by the Air Force at DGMC, NASA medical research can improve civilian care throughout the country,” Williams said. “The Air Force and NASA share the same altruistic medical research mission. Together, we seek to develop the future medical care which will be needed by the U.S. Space Force and which will also be very useful to the rest of the nation’s hospitals.”

In his comments during the event, Loftus made sure to give praise to those who were chiefly responsible for the device’s development.

“Dr. Jing Li, the project lead, and Dr. Tore Straume, both at NASA Ames Research Center, are important members of the group, along with Dr. Matthew Coleman and Dr. Matthias Frank at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This is very much a team effort.”

The future of the relationship between DGMC and NASA looks bright, with plans for future collaborative medical research between the two institutions currently in talks, particularly in the fields of nutritional medicine and blood analysis.

A research doctor listens to Airmen discuss procedures in a clinical investigation facility.

Dr. David Loftus, NASA Ames Research Center medical officer and principal investigator of the Space Biosciences Research Branch, NASA Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, Calif., meets with members of the 60th Medical Group at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., June 1, 2018. Loftus presented the first working prototype of the E-Nose Breathalyzer, a handheld device developed by NASA at a symposium at David Grant USAF Medical Center Oct. 21, 2020. Travis Airmen are hosting the NASA technology and collaborative research at the DGMC clinical investigation facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)

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