Healthcare video game maker Level Ex explores medical simulations for astronauts

Using data from NASA, the startup will be building tools that show how low gravity affects the human body, and how medical issues can be addressed during spaceflight.
By Dave Muoio
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Medical education and training game maker Level Ex is tackling the final frontier in its latest project for NASA, the startup announced today.

With the help of a newly announced grant from the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine, Level Ex will be working over the next 12 months to lay the groundwork for virtual simulations and scenarios that will teach astronauts how regular medical procedures or devices behave differently during low-gravity scenarios.

“TRISH is dedicated to adopting the most advanced terrestrial technologies that have the potential to address NASA’s future space health challenges,” Dr. Aenor Sawyer, chief health innovation officer at TRISH, said in a statement. “We identified Level Ex as having advanced capabilities in data-driven simulation and rendering of virtual patients and devices across platforms that are unmatched in the simulation ecosystem. By adapting their technology to include space conditions, we will lay the foundation for essential medical training and future real-time autonomous guidance for astronauts.”

WHY IT MATTERS

Medical issues occurring onboard a spacecraft differ from terrestrial care in a few key ways. For starters, extended time in space can have an impact on certain body functions, and therefore require unique knowledge to address. Further complicating the challenge is a roughly 40-minute delay in communications whenever the space team needs to consult the medical team at Mission Control.

With this in mind, Level Ex will be consulting data NASA has collected over the years to build a simulation demonstrating the impact space travel has on the body, and the procedures astronauts would need to conduct within the spacecraft to address any complications. Should the framework developed over the next 12 months bode well, this approach could be used to educate astronauts, increasing their self-sufficiency and and reducing their reliance on the ground team.

“We are honored that TRISH has put their trust in us to use our technology to advance medical training for astronauts,” Sam Glassenberg, CEO and founder of Level Ex, said in a statement. “With half a million medical professionals already playing our medical games, we’re eager to apply the work we’ve done to another critically important area of healthcare. Not only do I foresee this partnership shaping the future of spaceflight medicine, but there is no doubt that our discoveries and advancements will make Level Ex’s technology more robust, which will benefit terrestrial medical education across the board.”

THE LARGER TREND

Level Ex can now count its technology among the handful of unique digital tools supporting off-planet medical care. Others examples include Wolter Kluwer’s clinical decision support tool UpToDate, which NASA began piloting back in October, and a similar TRISH grant awarded to VisualDx roughly a year ago for the development of a space-friendly diagnostic tool. NASA has also spoken at length about its own unique implementation of telehealth for those living onboard the International Space Station.