- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A University of Nebraska-Lincoln research group believes it has a solution for the problem of monitoring the body’s vital signs in zero gravity, and it’s as easy as swallowing a pill.

Next week, the school’s so-called microgravity team will travel to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to test its biosensor system, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1miZckG ). The system uses a microrobotic capsule that can be swallowed and is intended to deliver a medical sensor that would attach to the small intestine wall.

The UNL team will do their work aboard a NASA plane that provide brief periods of near-weightlessness and will use a pig intestine to see if it’s possible to mechanically attach the medical sensor while in zero gravity.

If successful, the sensor would be able to measure temperature, pH levels and internal pressure and wirelessly transmit the data to a computer, providing real-time information to astronauts in flight.

Data collected by the sensors could potentially determine if an astronaut is getting sick, said UNL team leader Piotr Slawinski.

“We want to see how the biosensor deploys and see if this is a feasible way to monitor an astronaut’s long-term health,” Slawinski said. But the technology would be just as effective for land dwellers, he added.

Work on the biosensor system began last September at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, when Slawinski and others interested in the NASA project signed up to help solve “technology gaps” that could aid in future space travel.

Slawinski, who graduated earlier this month with a degree in mechanical engineering, wrote the 30-page proposal himself, then assembled a team of 15 engineering students with interests ranging from electrical to biosystems engineering.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com