During missions on the International Space Station, astronauts’ our bodies undergo a wide selection of adjustments because of lack of gravity—every part from imaginative and prescient to cardiovascular well being to bone density is affected.
Though astronauts train and take dietary supplements to mitigate a few of these results, understanding extra about deconditioning in microgravity may permit physicians to design higher remedies. This would not simply be helpful for spacefarers; it may additionally enhance therapy methods for frequent well being situations right here on Earth.
Staying dry in a moist state of affairs
To do that, the ESA SciSpacE crew and a crew of European scientists designed VIVALDI, which takes place within the MEDES Space Clinic (Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology) in Toulouse, France—one of many solely amenities in Europe which may host such research.
VIVALDI is an experiment that focuses on what’s generally known as dry immersion—a ground-based analog of the results microgravity has on the physique. As the title suggests, dry immersion entails being immersed in water for lengthy intervals, whereas staying dry. To do that, contributors are clothed in a water-resistant material and laid in specially-designed water baths. Their physique is then submerged to above the torso, with a fitted waterproof tarp protecting their arms and head above water.
During VIVALDI, contributors spend 5 entire days on this place. Meals are taken with the help of a floating board and a neck pillow. For toilet breaks and different actions that require elimination from water, contributors are assisted onto a trolley, sustaining their laid-back place, and briefly faraway from the water by workers.
Submerging contributors on this means takes weight off the physique, inducing microgravity-like alterations to neurological, cardiovascular, and metabolic programs, to call only a few. Fluids inside the physique shift, and physiological processes start to resemble these seen in astronauts throughout spaceflight.
The comfort of being on the bottom, nevertheless, permits researchers to make all types of hands-on medical assessments, and intently monitor how programs change throughout the course of weightlessness. Such an analog additionally permits researchers to collect information on bodily adjustments from extra folks, in addition to draw agency conclusions about what they’re observing extra shortly.
Microgravity on Earth?
Though dry immersion is extra generally utilized by Russian researchers, the ESA SciSpacE crew is testing to see simply how comparable it’s to precise spaceflight. Through VIVALDI, they hope to establish particularly what adjustments occur to the physique throughout weightlessness, how lengthy these adjustments take to occur, and the way they evaluate to each spaceflight and different ground-based microgravity analogs.
“Our first objective is to use the analog to get a better understanding on how humans physiologically, and to a certain extent psychologically, react and adapt to such an extreme stimulus,” says Angelique, ESA Discipline Lead for Life Sciences. “It’s a good tool to get a better understanding of how astronauts adapt to spaceflight, and it allows us to test and validate countermeasures.”
The first leg of this experiment, VIVALDI I, featured an all-female group of contributors, to fill a spot in present analysis. Alongside VIVALDI II, the soon-to-begin second leg involving male contributors, the info gathered will give researchers an thought of what strains microgravity locations on astronauts of any intercourse, in order that extensively efficient mitigation approaches will be designed
Impact past spaceflight
But it isn’t simply astronauts that profit from this analysis. Research that helps us attain the Moon and Mars will also be translated to healthcare right here on Earth. Understanding deconditioning utilizing dry immersion might also assist researchers and physicians to design new therapy approaches for affected person populations, akin to these with muscoloskeletal situations, those that are immobilized, and the aged.
“At ESA, we really try to focus also on that translational aspect,” shares Angelique. “If we can test countermeasures, like specific types of exercise or nutritional supplements, and we see they work well, maybe health researchers can consider testing them for specific patient populations, too.”
European Space Agency
Weightless on Earth: Preparing astronauts for microgravity (2022, September 21)
retrieved 21 September 2022
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