Feature | July 31, 2014

The Heart of An Astronaut, Five Years After Space

Cardio Ox investigation will look at how oxidative stress and inflammation caused by conditions of spaceflight affect astronaut hearts for up to five years after astronauts fly on the International Space Station

Cardio Ox investigation Astronaut Oxidative Stress Cardiovascular Health

JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, Expedition 38 Flight Engineer, demonstrates the ultrasound used to collect data for the Cardio Ox investigation, in the Columbus Module. Image Credit: NASA

Cardio Ox investigation Astronaut Oxidative Stress Cardiovascular Health

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, currently a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station, during prelaunch ground training for use of the Ultrasound-2 device which is used for the Cardio Ox study. Image Credit: NASA

July 31, 2014 — The heart of an astronaut is a much-studied thing. Scientists have analyzed its blood flow, rhythms, atrophy and, through journal studies, even matters of the heart. But for the first time, researchers are looking at how oxidative stress and inflammation caused by the conditions of space flight affect those hearts for up to five years after astronauts fly on the International Space Station. Lessons learned may help improve cardiovascular health on Earth as well.

Oxidative stress reflects an imbalance in the body's ability to handle toxic byproducts from normal, oxygen-consuming cell metabolism. This imbalance produces peroxides and free radicals, which contribute to a number of degenerative conditions. Evidence indicates that oxidative stress and resulting inflammation can accelerate the development of atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside arteries. This disease can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

For this investigation, called Cardio Ox, researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston will look at the function and structure of arteries along with specific biomarkers in the blood and urine that indicate inflammation and oxidative stress. These biological samples will be taken from astronauts before their launch, 15 and 60 days after launch, 15 days before returning to Earth, and within days after landing.

The crew will also take ultrasound scans of the carotid artery thickness and brachial artery dilation, recognized indicators of cardiovascular health, at the same time points, for comparison with the biomarkers. The same measurements will be taken and ultrasounds performed at the regular check-ups that all astronauts have one, three and five years after flight.

"This is the first cardiovascular study to cover such a long period," said Steven Platts, Ph.D., principal investigator. The data will create a picture over time, allowing researchers to examine whether blood vessel changes seen during flight returned to normal sometime after flight. They will also be able to determine if the effects of oxidative stress grow worse over time or if astronauts experience chronic inflammation post-flight.

Many studies have looked at oxidative stress on Earth, but only astronauts are simultaneously exposed to so many factors known to cause it. The unique environment of a space mission combines a number of factors that can increase the risk of oxidative damage and inflammation, including radiation, psychological stress, reduced physical activity and, in the case of extravehicular activity, increased oxygen exposure.

"It's a perfect storm of things known to cause oxidative stress all happening at the same time," Platts explained. "So this study will enable us to answer some important questions, such as, do these factors work together to make things worse? Are any of them at high enough exposure to cause damage?" Knowing more about how space may cause changes in cardiovascular health will help scientists develop measures to counter its negative effects, in space and on Earth.

The pre-flight data provide a snapshot of an astronaut's cardiovascular health before exposure to the space environment, which then makes it reasonable to assume that any changes are caused by exposure to the space environment and not by other factors. Other studies have looked at specific factors such as mental stress or exercise and their relationship to oxidative damage, but the space station provides a unique opportunity to integrate a variety of causes in a single person.

Typically, a study eliminates all variables except one and examines that one, but this investigation looks at how the entire workplace environment affects the body. The same factors also affect people in unique Earth-bound job environments, such as long-haul jet pilots or train engineers, those who work in a small room all day at a radiation plant, or in unique conditions such as Antarctica. Such situations subject people to stress similar to that experienced by astronauts. The disruption of daily rhythm and sleep patterns experienced in space could be extrapolated to shift workers on Earth as well.

Astronaut Scott Kelly participated in the investigation during his time in orbit and recently completed his one-year post-flight checkup. The study is continuing aboard the station, and a total of 12 astronauts in all will participate during the five-year investigation. You could say the subjects are really putting their hearts into it.

For more information: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/cardio_ox/#.U9pIFIBdUhw

 

Related Content

Biotronik Studies Demonstrate Efficacy of Minimizing Metal Burden in SFA Therapy
News | Stents Bare Metal| September 22, 2017
Physicians demonstrated that reducing metal burden in superficial femoral artery (SFA) therapy could effectively reduce...
Edwards Inspiris Resilia Valve Receives FDA Approval
News | Heart Valve Technology| September 21, 2017
Edwards Lifesciences Corp. recently received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its Inspiris Resilia...
MyoKardia Presents Additional Positive Data From Phase 2 PIONEER-HCM Study at HFSA 2017
News | Heart Failure| September 21, 2017
MyoKardia Inc. announced that additional positive data from the first patient cohort of its Phase 2 PIONEER-HCM study...
DISRUPT BTK Study Shows Positive Results With Lithoplasty in Calcified Lesions Below the Knee
News | Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)| September 20, 2017
Shockwave Medical reported positive results from the DISRUPT BTK Study, which were presented at the annual...
Corindus Announces First Patient Enrolled in PRECISION GRX Registry
News | Robotic Systems| September 18, 2017
September 18, 2017 — Corindus Vascular Robotics Inc.
Two-Year ILLUMENATE Trial Data Demonstrate Efficacy of Stellarex Drug-Coated Balloon
News | Drug-Eluting Balloons| September 18, 2017
Philips announced the two-year results from the ILLUMENATE European randomized clinical trial (EU RCT) demonstrating...
Sentinel Cerebral Protection System Significantly Reduces Stroke and Mortality in TAVR
News | Embolic Protection Devices| September 18, 2017
September 18, 2017 – Claret Medical announced publication of a new study in the...
Marijuana Associated With Three-Fold Risk of Death From Hypertension
News | Hypertension| September 14, 2017
Marijuana use is associated with a three-fold risk of death from hypertension, according to research published recently...
Peter Schneider, M.D. presents late breaking clinical trial results at VIVA 17 in Las Vegas. Panelists (l to r) Krishna Rocha-Singh, M.D., Sean Lyden, M.D., John Kaufman, M.D., Donna Buckley, M.D.

Peter Schneider, M.D. presents late breaking clinical trial results at VIVA 17 in Las Vegas. Panelists (l to r) Krishna Rocha-Singh, M.D., Sean Lyden, M.D., John Kaufman, M.D., Donna Buckley, M.D.

Feature | Cath Lab| September 14, 2017
September 14, 2017 — Here are quick summaries for all the key late-breaking vascular and endovascular clinical trials
Medtronic Announces Japanese Regulatory Approval for In.Pact Admiral Drug-Coated Balloon
News | Drug-Eluting Balloons| September 13, 2017
Medtronic plc announced that the In.Pact Admiral Drug-Coated Balloon (DCB) received approval from the Japanese Ministry...
Overlay Init