NASA Heart Research

Current NASA Space Studies in Cardiology

The International Space Station (ISS) is located approximately 400km above the Earth, and although it is still being built, many experiments are still being carried out. Of interest to the cardiology world though is the following experiment which will commence shortly.

Human Cardiovascular Performance in the Space Flight Environment

Description & Aim:

Cardiac arrhythmias have recently been identified in some crew members after long-duration exposure to microgravity aboard the Mir space station, which may be due to cardiac atrophy. The experiment will aim to determine the magnitude of left and right ventricular atrophy associated with long-duration spaceflight (via pre- and postflight MRI). The time course and pattern of progression of cardiac atrophy in-flight will be determined using cardiac ultrasound.


Once the magnitude, time course, and inciting factors for cardiac atrophy have been determined, effective countermeasures currently being developed by the investigators in parallel ground-based experiments, may be applied, focused on normalizing cardiac work and volume during long-duration spaceflight. The information obtained from these spaceflight experiments also may be relevant for patients after prolonged confinement to bed rest, or chronic reduction in physical activity, as well as for patients with disease processes that alter cardiac stiffness such as congestive heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and normal aging.

Hardware Description:

Equipment already aboard the ISS includes a Human Research Facility (HRF) Ultrasound (ATL HDI 5000) with P4-2 Echo Probe, an exercise device, and the HRF PC and Workstation. Equipment due to arrive on additional missions include a twelve-lead and signal averaged electrocardiograph, ambulatory BP device, ambulatory Holter monitor device, ambulatory activity monitors, and kits for media and consumables.
All studies are performed within the Destiny Laboratory aboard the ISS.




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