NASA's Hi-Tech Gauze Could Heal Wounded Mars Astronauts

Astronaut drilling on Mars art
(Image credit: NASA)

Imagine that NASA's Journey to Mars is approved, and you are an astronaut on the Red Planet in the 2030s. Or that you're on the first SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) commute. During a routine activity on the Martian surface -- say, drilling out rock samples, as you see here -- you lose your balance and fall, cutting your leg pretty badly.

Obviously the crew would have medical training to assist, but in the interest of survival -- and the money it cost to get you there! -- it would be great if some technology was available to help you heal faster so you can get back to work.

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One possibility could be electric gauze. NASA is working on the new technology and early results are showing promise for athletes on Earth. As for our future Mars astronauts, in different gravities blood behavior can change, so there's no firm word yet on if this will work on other planets.

"What we have here is a technology that can have a large impact on wound healing of all sorts," said Emilie "Mia" Siochi, a senior materials scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, in a new video released by the agency:

"What's unique about this material is that it's electroactive -- meaning that if you warm it up, if you push on it, if you apply any load on it, even if you just blow on it -- it actually generates voltage," Siochi added. And yes, body temperature is enough to activate it, helping to bond wounds.

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NASA created a process to apply voltage as the polymer is ejected from a syringe. This creates a fiber. If the fibers are aligned correctly, cells on a wound use it as a scaffold, helping the wound to heal faster, early research shows. One easy way of aligning them would be to put them in a gauze or bandage, which also protects the wound to reduce infection, Siochi said.

"The new apparatus provides a simple and inexpensive means of producing fibers and mats of controlled fiber diameter, porosity, and thickness," NASA wrote in a statement.

You can read more about the technology at the NASA Technology Transfer website.

Originally published on Discovery News.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: