Space Impacts on Heart and Bones May Provide Earth Therapies

The aurora australis, or "southern lights"
The aurora australis, or “southern lights,” highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia from June 2019..

Human research and space biology dominated the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 62 crew investigated how microgravity impacts heart and bone cells and head and eye pressure.

All three crewmembers tested a unique suit Tuesday that draws body fluids, such as blood and water, towards the feet. This counteracts space-caused fluid shifts toward the head that create pressure on an astronaut’s eyes and cranium. One visible symptom, called “puffy face,” is a redder and rounder face due to those shifts. However, astronauts have reported vision problems after living in space for months at a time.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan put on the suit with help from Commander Oleg Skripochka in the station’s Zvezda service module. NASA astronaut Jessica Meir then scanned Morgan’s eyes, head and chest with an ultrasound device to measure blood flow through his veins and arteries. Doctors on Earth monitored the activities to learn more about the effectiveness of the negative pressure body suit.

Morgan then moved on to cardiac research, learning how to create and culture heart cells on the space station. Results could provide advanced therapies to prevent heart conditions on Earth and in space. Meir continued more bone research servicing bone samples to help scientists better understand Earth ailments such as osteoporosis.

The commander stayed in the station’s Russian segment inventorying cargo from a Russian resupply ship. Skripochka, a veteran of three station missions, made space in the Progress 74 cargo craft temporarily stowing goods and rearranging hardware to reduce clutter aboard the orbiting lab.

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