Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beating Heart, Minus Gravity


The public Feature section of the NASA Science News has some great descriptions and interviews related to my new study.

When astronauts travel through space, the human heart loses something it seems to need: the Earthly pull of gravity. Is this a problem? See the Integrated Cardiovascular Article site for details.

"In space, even more than on Earth, it's use it or lose it. Muscles need to push or pull against resistance to stay in shape; without work they waste away. Is this also true of our most critical muscle – the human heart? NASA is launching a new study called Integrated Cardiovascular to find out."

NASA Cardio Study This project is all about heart mass and exercise capacity in micro-gravity, will span two years and twelve ISS astronauts. In addition, twelve analogs on the ground will be studied in a simulation – perhaps to see if new sim techniques are feasible in terms of comparison. At any rate, I’ll be one of the dozen on the ground.

Says ISS program scientist Julie Robinson: “Results will help us fine-tune exercise protocols for the space station crew. We'll also learn what to look at in astronauts' hearts before we send them to, say, Mars. We'll identify a set of risk factors that can help flight surgeons determine the best candidates for long space missions.”

Toward the bottom of the article, they also mention the Earthly applications, as results will be relevant for people on long term bedrest (imagine that), as well as patients with heart ailments. They detail the tests that will be used on the ISS, and I’ll undergo the same ones on the ground.

Theirs will entail stints of testing “before and after flight.” Of course, since I won’t be going on any weightless flights, so I’ll undergo a series of injections and procedures to mimic pulmonary changes and blood pressure fluctuations.

I guess that’s where the salt avalanche comes in. The comes bicycling to exhaustion, echocardiogram, and everyone’s favorite… more tilt tests!