Calgary scientist’s research to help astronauts bolster their health

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A Mount Royal College biologist is partnering with NASA and the German House Company to conduct analysis that may assist astronauts keep their well being throughout extended area missions.

“NASA has the Artemis program, which has the purpose of placing astronauts again on the moon within the subsequent couple of years. And so, the problem is not if we will do it — it’s doing it safely for longer durations,” stated Nick Strzalkowaski, who holds a PhD in neurophysiology and a bachelor of science in human kinetics.

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Strzalkowaski is collaborating with main investigator Leah Bent of the College of Guelph and co-investigator Ryan Peters from the College of Calgary to review pores and skin sensitivity adjustments in contributors spending 60 days in head-down mattress relaxation to higher perceive sensory variations that happen throughout area flight. The challenge is financially supported by the Canadian House Company.

“The purpose of the large challenge that I’m concerned in is to research countermeasures to see if we will decelerate or mitigate the physiological variations within the area surroundings.”

The analysis will consist of 4 campaigns of 12 contributors, which can take a few years to finish; the primary spherical of testing will happen in September.

“What’s wonderful about this challenge is that there are dozens of principal investigators doing dozens of various experiments due to how advanced and invasive the head-down mattress relaxation protocol is, so it’s actually cool to be a part of this actually huge workforce.”

NASA Artemis
A mock-up of the Lunar Terrain Automobile is proven on a display throughout a information convention on the Johnson House Middle in Houston, Texas, on April 3, 2024, to announce the brand new automobile that may assist Artemis astronauts discover the Moon on future missions. Mark Felix/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

Weightlessness can have critical impression on well being of astronauts

Being subjected to the consequences of microgravity is among the first issues to occur when somebody goes to area. Microgravity causes blood and different fluid to shift upwards towards the pinnacle, inflicting puffiness within the face, placing stress on the eyes and the optic nerves, and inflicting imaginative and prescient impairments.

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“It additionally places stress on the cardiovascular system — your coronary heart doesn’t must work as laborious, so it shrinks and also you lose blood quantity. Floating out in area additionally means you’re not utilizing your muscular tissues, so you’ve muscle atrophy or weakening, which may result in osteoporosis-like signs and kidney stones,” Strzalkowaski stated.

And whereas testing astronauts in area is pricey, harmful, and difficult, conducting analysis on Earth to review physiological variations that happen is a a lot safer and cheaper possibility.

“That’s the place the head-down mattress relaxation is available in, and that simulates the fluid shifts as a result of their head is down at six levels and under their toes, and it’s unloading in order that they’re not utilizing their muscular tissues and their bones.”

The inspiration for the challenge got here from work that Strzalkowaski and first investigator Bent did again in 2011 in one other NASA examine taking a look at adjustments in foot sole sensitivity in astronauts.

“The benefit of doing the head-down mattress relaxation examine is that now we will take a look at these contributors a number of occasions — so as an alternative of simply pre-post, we will have a look at them, for instance, on day three and day seven, and at two-week increments over the protocol to see how these adjustments happen over time.

“House analysis, even when the targets are about area exploration, the findings and discoveries do make their means again to Earth. So, it’s every thing from scratch-resistant lenses to synthetic limbs to air purification programs, water purification programs, and GPS — all that stuff began with an area utility after which got here again to Earth,” Strzalkowski stated.

April 12 marks the Worldwide Day of Human House Flight.

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