Volunteers endure bed-rest study

Tuesday, March 22, 2005Volunteers began a 60 day bed-rest marathon on March 19 to study simulated weightlessness effects on women astronauts. The study, Women International Space Simulation for Exploration(WISE), is conducted at the MEDES Space Clinic in Toulouse, France.

The 12 women, selected from 1600 applicants hailing from France,Great Britain, Germany, Finland, The Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic began the study after a 20 day screening for baseline comparison data as the study progressed.

The women will conduct all activities from eating, bathing, and reading while lying in hospital beds tilted headfirst at a six degree angle. This particular position, called head-down tilt bed rest was determined from previous studies to remove the vertical load of gravity on the body, inducing changes similar to what astronauts in a genuine weightless environment experience [1].

Long term exposure to weightlessness creates a number of physiological and psychological problems in astronauts such as:

  • Reduced capacity for physical exertion
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Affects of confinement and isolation
  • Impaired circulatory function

A total of 24 women will participate in the study. A second group of 12 will join in September.

Three groups of eight women each will be studied over the course of the two campaigns of bed rest. One group will serve as a control, receiving no specific treatments, the second will exercise, while the third will receive nutritional supplements.

The study is designed to fill in gaps of knowledge on the differences between men and women during extended weightlessness. It also aims to develop countermeasures for reducing the debilitating effects of long spaceflights.

Participating agencies in the study include the European Space Agency, NASA, the French Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

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