Exercise key to protecting humans against negative effects of space flight?

Topic: College of Applied Sciences and Technology

September 8, 2011

Ball State University's internationally recognized Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) is continuing its work with NASA to determine how exercise may counteract the negative effects of space flight on the human body.
 
Scott Trappe, HPL director and John and Janice Fisher professor of exercise science, and Todd Trappe,  exercise science professor, are leading a team looking at skeletal muscle health on American, Russian and other crew members before and after six-month stays on the International Space Station (ISS).
 
NASA awarded HPL almost $600,000 to examine the effectiveness of integrated resistance and aerobic training during long duration space flight, when the zero-gravity environment causes muscles to atrophy.
 
HPL researchers have been involved in the research since the mid-1990s when they performed pre- and post-flight examinations of American astronauts flying on the space shuttle.  More about HPL's work for NASA and related research may be found online.
 
"Our team will use a specialized technique to obtain muscle biopsy samples from the leg muscles of the astronauts," explained Scott Trappe. "The muscle samples will be tested for strength and power and metabolic health. In conjunction with the ISS research, we will also be collaborating with Johnson Space Center and the University of Texas Medical Branch on a ground-based long duration bed rest study that will closely mimic the exercise program and human health goals of the space flight project."
 
More high-intensity exercise


The main emphasis of the new exercise program is to incorporate more high-intensity exercise into the daily routine of astronauts. Previous studies by Ball State's research team, in collaboration with NASA, have shown that a high volume, moderate intensity exercise program was insufficient to completely protect skeletal muscle health among Russian and American ISS crew members onboard the orbiting outpost for six months or more. 
 
"The combination of parallel space flight and bed rest studies will provide a powerful platform to evaluate a novel exercise program aimed at preserving human health in space and applying this knowledge to Earth-based health challenges such aging, rehabilitation and inactivity related disorders, to name a few," Scott Trappe said.
 
The first crew member to implement the new exercise program is currently on the ISS. The HPL team tested the astronaut in April before his launch from Russia on June 7 to the ISS. He expected return from space at the end of the year. The HPL team will test a second crew member in early September in Houston after he is transported back from Russia. That nation is providing the U.S. access to the ISS since the American space shuttle program has ended.
 
Equipment built for space 


Crew members will have access to exercise equipment designed specifically for space travel, including a cycle erometer, a running treadmill and a resistance exercise device. The bed rest study exercise hardware closely replicates that used in space flight.
 
The bed rest study also is in the early stages of implementation with three individuals currently under testing at the NASA bed rest facility in Texas. HPL conducted a similar bed rest study in 2005 in cooperation with NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French Space Agency (CNES).
 
HPL will dedicate a significant number of its researchers and students to the project, Scott Trappe said.
 
"We are honored to continue our involvement with NASA and look forward to the scientific knowledge that will be gained from this research," he said.

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