EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Nov. 16 Medical and technical experts at Wyle are assisting two important NASA projects on the International Space Station. Their efforts will help astronauts cope with effects of long-duration spaceflight similar to what might be experienced in a future mission to Mars.
"If successful, these studies will both improve astronaut health during space exploration missions and provide us with better insight into cardiovascular function here on Earth," said Dr. Douglas Hamilton, one of the senior investigators on the studies.
Wyle personnel include Dr. Douglas Ebert, Dr. Hamilton, and Dr. Ashot Sargsyan and sonographers Kathleen Garcia, David Martin and Suzanne Poston. They provide ultrasound, telemedicine, cardiovascular and project management expertise for the project, which will develop a remotely-guided ultrasound methodology and evaluate cardiovascular function and adaptation to microgravity.
On Earth, ultrasound scans are typically performed by experienced technicians and interpreted by physicians. In space, it is necessary for crewmembers, who have little or no ultrasound experience, to perform these scans on themselves or on each other. Remote guidance telemedicine techniques used on the International Space Station allow astronauts to perform these exams in space and send the scans to Earth for interpretation by medical professionals.
The problem is made even more difficult by the behavior of fluids, organs and soft tissue in weightlessness. Diagnostic imaging on earth uses gravity-based imaging techniques because gravity plays a significant role in the location of fluids and soft tissue. In microgravity, the distribution of fluid is determined by a combination of other factors like surface tension, pressure gradients and tissue and organ compliance.
The first project uses a Russian occlusion cuff system to acutely alter volume distribution in crewmembers while focused ultrasound measurement techniques are developed. These new techniques will more accurately measure space-induced fluid volume shifts, enhance the diagnostic value of ultrasounds performed in space, and advance telemedicine capabilities.
Data will provide insights into the cardiovascular system's response to circulating volume changes and provide important insights into basic cardiovascular research here on Earth, too. The investigation is sponsored by NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency in collaboration with Dr. Scott Dulchavsky from Henry Ford Health System. Funding for the project is provided as part of NASA's Human Research Program.
The second project investigates changes in heart size and function following long duration exposure to microgravity. Blood pressure and electrocardiogram (ECG) readings are evaluated at several time points before, during, and following spaceflight.
The study also obtains comprehensive in-flight cardiac imaging data. Images of the heart coupled with electrocardiography and pre- and post-flight magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provide critical information in establishing a "space normal" pattern for hearts and lets researchers evaluate cardiac function during long duration spaceflight.
Dr. Michael W. Bungo of the University of Texas, Houston Medical School and chief of staff at LBJ Hospital and Dr. Benjamin D. Levine, director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, are principal investigators for the study, joined by Dr. Hamilton of Wyle and Dr. Smith Johnston of NASA as co-investigators.
Wyle provides NASA's human space missions with biomedical and engineering services as part of a portfolio of science, information technology and engineering services to the federal government on long-term outsourcing contracts. Wyle also tests and evaluates aircraft, weapon systems, networks, and other government assets, and provides engineering services to the aerospace, defense, and nuclear power industries.
Contact: Dan Reeder (310) 563-6834 Ref.: NR/09-24