Earth Applications

The Cardiovascular Alternations Team's work benefits health care on Earth in the following ways:
  • Improved ability to detect patients at high risk for catastrophic cardiovascular events and the development of strategies for reducing this risk will have widespread implications for public health and cardiovascular risk reduction in the population at large, especially for asymptomatic individuals;
  • Countermeasures for radiation-induced damage to the heart and blood vessels could be used prevent or reduce biological damage from terrestrial radiation sources, such as nuclear weapons or radiation bioterrorism, and to reduce side effects from cancer radiation treatments and solar flares;
  • Novel ultrasound techniques developed for analysis of space data can and have been used to evaluate patients with heart disease on Earth; and
  • Strength training and rowing are now incorporated into treatment for patients after prolonged periods of bed rest or chronic reduction in physical activity. For example, young women with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a disabling syndrome which prevents patients from standing upright for prolonged periods of time, have been effectively cured by using an NSBRI training program developed to prevent cardiovascular deconditioning during bed rest and spaceflight. Other patient groups could benefit from this unique combination of semi-recumbent endurance exercise combined with strength training. These groups include patients with disease processes that alter cardiac stiffness, such as obesity, hypertension, heart failure (especially diastolic heart failure) or ischemic heart disease, and persons with normal aging and osteoporosis.

Bed rest, with the subjectís head slightly lower than the feet, is used to simulate weightlessness and study its effects on the cardiovascular system. In this position, subjects show physiologic changes similar to those expressed by astronauts in microgravity for long periods.