Barbara Selby Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

June 11, 1991 (Phone: 703/557-5609) Jean Drummond Clough Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. (Phone: 804/864-6122) RELEASE: 91-90 LANGLEY TEAM CONTRIBUTOR TO PRENATAL CARE TECHNOLOGY The application of sensor technology to an invention aimed at identifying problem pregnancies has placed a Langley team, headed by Dr. Allan J. Zuckerwar, in the forefront of an innovative transfer of NASA science to a medical initiative. The device is a fetal heart rate monitor designed to be portable so the expectant mother can oversee the health of her developing baby daily in her home. Zuckerwar became involved when the Langley Technology Utilization (TU) and Applications Office was contacted by Dr. Donald A. Baker, M.D., of Spokane, Wash., who had developed the concept but needed help with its practical implementation. Baker's interest stemmed from his experience in treating difficult pregnancies involving women who could not or would not get adequate prenatal care -- hence the idea of providing something that would signal the need for medical attention. The fetal heart monitor is an excellent barometer of the baby's health since its beat rate changes measurably in response to such influences as maternal smoking, anemia, drug abuse, alchohol abuse, choking the umbilical cord, high blood pressure, extended gestation, diabetes or maternal infection. In many of these situations, the baby could be healthy one day

and in a life threatening condition 24 hours later. A daily monitor would sound an alarm and alert the mother to call her clinic for help. Zuckerwar's challenge was to adopt sensors and signal processing equipment into a package that was small enough to be portable, yet easy to apply and operate. He also needed to avoid existing instrumentation which uses pulsed Doppler ultrasound that is highly sensitive to abdominal position and is bulky.

- more -2Zuckerwar decided upon passive, film-type acoustical sensors which are flexible, rugged, chemically stable and which produce voltage when loaded by pressure. These sensors have been used by Langley researchers to measure surface pressures on aircraft in flight and on wind tunnel models. In developing this approach, he points to the help he got from E. Thomas Hall, Jr., and Timothy D. Bryant, both of Langley's Fabrication Division, who overcame extraordinary fabrication problems in supporting the effort. Zuckerwar's approach uses a center sensor surrounded by six more in a circle. This array is mounted on a belt worn by the mother. It is designed to do five things: detect pressure pulses arriving at the abdominal surface of the mother, cancel signals due to rigid body motion of the mother, shield against radiostatic interference, insulate from environmental noise and isolate the mother electrically from the signal processing equipment. The signal processor itself is the manager of the whole system. For this sophisticated technology, Zuckerwar relied on the expertise of two Old Dominion University colleagues, electrical engineers Dr. John W. Stoughton and Dr. Robert A. Pretlow, M.D. The system they devised uses a computer which has been "trained" to recognize ideal fetal heart beat tones. It also is able to select which of the seven sensors is receiving the strongest signal. The computer then discriminates, in real time, between normal signals from the

baby's heart and those that do not fit ideal parameters. In the final commercial version, when an abnormal signal is detected, an alarm would be sounded for the mother to seek assistance. The Langley effort to support Dr. Baker's commercial interests in marketing the monitor is part of the NASA program to transfer the agency's space age technology to the private sector, according to Dr. Franklin H. Farmer of the TU office. He adds that most of these transfers are to the medical community and that this fetal heart monitor program was funded by the TU office. Zuckerwar, an electronics engineer in the Instrument Research Division, is known internationally as an authority in acoustics, aerodynamics and structural dynamics instrumentation research programs. He is currently leading a NASA/industry/university effort to develop high temperature fiber optic technology which will be applied to advanced sensors for use in hypersonic research in wind tunnels and on future hypersonic aerospace vehicles. Zuckerwar holds bachelors and masters degrees in electrical engineering from the Carnegie Institute of Technology and a doctoral degree from the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany. He also did postdoctoral work at Columbia University and was an associate professor of electrical engineering at Youngstown State University until 1973 when he joined NASA. - end (Photographs are available from Langley Research Center to illustrate this story.)