Space | 17. May 2019 | posted by Pierre-François Migeotte

AGBRESA - Cardiac deconditioning in astronauts

Credit: DLR
A participant in the MRI machine

During the AGBRESA study, we are studying the cardiac deconditioning that occurs during space flight. Together with colleagues from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Politecnico di Milano, and with the support from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Belgian Science Policy Office, we are looking at the weakening of the heart, which can lead to an astronaut fainting upon returning to gravity after a long duration spaceflight. This is a big problem for space exploration and requires countermeasures to be implemented during such missions. Our study aims to evaluate whether artificial gravity, generated by short-arm centrifugation, could be a valid countermeasure for space exploration missions.##markend##

Credit: DLR
One of the participants studies the results of a recent test

The weakening of the cardiac function that occurs in space is simulated by the -6° head-down tilt bed rest that the test persons maintain during their 60-day bed rest. The :envihab facility at the DLR, where this study is performed, does not only offer the possibility to accommodate 12 test subjects but is also equipped with a centrifuge and the latest cardiac MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technology. :envihab is indeed a perfect laboratory, as such facilities are next to the participants’ rooms.

Credit: DLR
4D blood flow from the heart to the arteries (measured using MRI)

Jérémy Rabineau from the Université Libre de Bruxelles will be at :envihab during the entire duration of the study assisting the participants to perform the cardiac protocols. However, my team and I are not only studying the impact of the countermeasure on cardiac function, we are also developing and validating smart cardiac Kino-cardiograph wearable technology that measures the health and strength of the cardiac function through accelerometers similar to those in smartphones. By using the same technology on astronauts, cardiac patients and the participants in the :envihab environment, we are developing smart wearable technology for the future. Though currently futuristic, such devices will one day help to measure cardiac function of patients at home without the need of transportation to the hospital.

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