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19. May 2020

Imedos takes off: microcirculation in space

  • Astronaut entering zero gravity conditions © DLR
    Astronaut entering zero gravity conditions © DLR

Astronauts and jet pilots are regularly exposed to extreme situations that affect their health and could lead to health complaints. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is continuously researching in this field in order to improve the safety of space expeditions. We are very proud to be part of their current research study that focuses on the effects of microgravity on the central microcirculation of the human body.

It has been shown repeatedly that pilots and astronauts experience various problems with their blood circulation when returning from space expeditions. As part of the planned project, about 25 participants will be exposed to zero gravity during a series of parabolic flights. They will be examined before, during and after zero gravity conditions using a specially developed version of our world-leading DVA System to both take and analyse high-precision images of their ocular fundus. Thus, direct insights into the behaviour of retinal vessels before, during and after weightless situations can be gained. The project focuses on the blood flow of vessels with a diameter of less than 100 micrometres. As a result, it should deliver new information on the conditions of the human bloodstream and circulation while being in space.

Due to the peculiarities of weightlessness, the medical technology used by Imedos must be adapted. The devices must withstand g-forces of levels 9–10.9. They must not loosen or bend under these high loads. In addition, there are further height limitations. All devices must be very flat to create optimal conditions. For this purpose, both the camera and the examination table as well as the monitor of the Imedos devices have to be changed considerably.

Under the project management of Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Christian Jung, Senior Physician of the University Clinic for Cardiology, Angiology and Pneumology in Düsseldorf, the DLR cooperates with six partners in this project, Imedos being one of them. The first project meetings have already taken place and we were able to visit the converted aircraft, which will be used for the parabolic flights in France in the summer.

In preparation for the research study, the team led by Prof. Dr. Dr. Jung carried out a detailed analysis of the influence of microgravity on the part of the bloodstream that takes place in the large vessels, such as the arteries. Here, the participants experienced microgravity for about 20 seconds during a series of parabolic flights. In the accompanying studies, a relevant influence of macrocirculation was found. The findings will now be transferred to microcirculation.

Our blog will inform you regularly about the progress of the project. So please check back later.