Project Van Gogh - An Assessment of an Arterialised Blood Collecting Device for Use in Microgravity
  1. 2006 • 42nd ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign
Life Sciences:
  • Medicine/Health
A300 ZERO-G Airbus
Patrik Sundblad
S. Evetts (1), J. Whittle (1), E. Coates (1), G. Evetts (1), G. Dalmarco (1), F. Falcao (1), R. Cardoso (1), R. Cambraial (1), J. Ernsting (1), R. Cardoso (1), T. Russomano (1)
Thames Valley University
Health and Exercise Science TVU
Wellington Street
Slough SL1 1YG

There is currently no safe, reliable method of accurately measuring arterial blood gas tensions in space. An alternative to direct arterial measurement is the technique of sampling arterialized blood from the earlobe, an accurate procedure that has been in use in clinical medicine and physiology for more than 50 years. A small, self-contained device (The Earlobe Arterialized Blood {EAB} Collector) has been developed by the MicroG Laboratory, PUCRS, Brazil and King´s College, London, for the collection of arterialized blood from the earlobe, for use both on Earth and in space.

The aim of this study was to examine whether the 6th EAB Collector prototype could effectively collect arterialised blood from the ear during microgravity without contamination of the environment with blood products

A clear, neoprene hood system was designed to enable blood to be taken from the ears of a human subject during parabolic flight induced microgravity without risk of spilt blood contaminating the cabin environment. Eight healthy investigators acted as both subjects and blood takers. An EAB Collector was assigned to each subject and used by a colleague to take samples during the 22 second periods of microgravity provided by ESA's 42nd Parabolic Flight Campaign. One, or in some cases two, blood samples were taken from each subject´s ear to provide a study sample of n = 25. The blood acquired during each sample was collected in a heparinised capillary tube of 75 microlitres volume. The collection was timed and the capillary tube and blood was placed in a hard, human tissue disposal container after collection.

The mean percent quantity of blood collected was 78.2 ± 29.2 % or 58.7 microlitres. This volume was collected in a mean time of 18.8 ± 7.43 s. Comparison of the amount and time required to collect in microgravity with that of the ground control values (a mean 79.5 ± 23.7 % in 19.5 s or 59.6 microlitres) shows that there was no significant difference between the ability of the device under these two conditions (p>0.05). No blood products were seen to emanate from the EAB Collectors indicating that the seals of the devices were secure against blood leakage.

The data suggests that arterialized blood can be as effectively sampled from the earlobe using the EAB Collector in microgravity as it can at +1Gz. It is expected, however, that the amount and duration required to take the sample will be improved in subsequent prototypes. Furthermore, although the ability for the EAB Collector to acquire blood samples has been demonstrated, an assessment of the physiological blood variables (e.g. PO2, PCO2, pH) that result, will need to be made in microgravity to ascertain whether this environment will affect such results.

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In-flight footage of experiment

Pre-flight briefing
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