Bedrest studies

Re­search in­to the hu­man phys­i­ol­o­gy of weight­less­ness

The beds are angled downwards towards the head end by six degrees
The beds are an­gled down­wards to­wards the head end by six de­grees
Image 1/4, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

The beds are angled downwards towards the head end by six degrees

The slight in­cli­na­tion of the beds en­sures that the­body flu­ids - as with the as­tro­nauts in weight­less­ness - in the di­rec­tion of the head.
Next Generation Short-Arm Human Centrifuge (:envihab)
Next Gen­er­a­tion Short-Arm Hu­man Cen­trifuge (:en­vi­hab)
Image 2/4, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Next Generation Short-Arm Human Centrifuge (:envihab)

The short-arm cen­trifuge :en­vi­hab at DLR in Cologne of­fers pos­si­bil­i­ties to car­ry out phys­i­cal train­ing for the pur­pos­es of main­tain­ing fit­ness lev­els un­der vari­able grav­i­ty con­di­tions. In (AG­BRE­SA, the cen­trifuge is used to test whether it can be used to coun­ter­act the neg­a­tive ef­fects of weight­less­ness.
In :envihab
In :en­vi­hab
Image 3/4, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

In :envihab

The short-arm hu­man cen­trifuge ro­tates, gen­er­at­ing ar­ti­fi­cial grav­i­ty for the test sub­jects
Rotating research
Ro­tat­ing re­search
Image 4/4, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Rotating research

Up to four test can­di­dates can be ac­cel­er­at­ed si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly at up to 6G on the ends of the cen­trifuge arms, pro­vid­ing unique con­di­tions for ex­per­i­ments; these in­clude de­vel­op­ing train­ing mea­sures for as­tro­nauts to re­main in a mi­cro­grav­i­ty en­vi­ron­ment for pro­longed pe­ri­ods. Com­plex se­quences of move­ments in hy­per­grav­i­ty can be record­ed with high pre­ci­sion while re­mote­ly op­er­at­ed med­i­cal ex­per­i­ments are con­duct­ed. Doc­tors con­tin­u­ous­ly mon­i­tor the test sub­jects dur­ing ex­per­i­ments on the cen­trifuge.

If astronauts are to live for long periods in space, on the Moon or on Mars in the future, effective countermeasures must be developed to deal with the negative effects of weightlessness and reduced gravity. In a zero-gravity environment, muscles and bones atrophy significantly, body fluids shift to the upper body, and there is less strain placed on the whole cardiovascular system, which then loses efficiency. In a nutshell, the degenerative process speeds up in space compared with what would happen on Earth.

Research into the human physiology of weightlessness is important not just for astronauts to maintain their health and fitness in space, but also for people on Earth. This is why space medicine can be just as valuable as research into health on Earth.

Lying in bed for the sake of science 

Bedrest studies are considered to be the gold standard in space medical research when it comes to simulating the effect of weightlessness on the human body on Earth. The impact on the test subjects’ bodies during long-term bedrest studies are comparable to those experienced by astronauts in space. Depending on the research topic, initially simulating aspects on Earth, where the conditions are easier to control can bring advantages.

DLR has gathered a wealth of experience in the area of short-term and long-term bedrest studies. Launched in 2019, the Artificial Gravity Bed Rest Study (AGBRESA) is the first long-term bedrest study jointly conducted by DLR, NASA and ESA. In the :envihab research facility at DLR’s site in Cologne, researchers are using a short-arm human centrifuge for the first time to test whether artificial gravity can counteract bone and muscle atrophy.

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