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Sinai Hospital to Help NASA Study Effects of Spaceflight on Astronauts

Posted Aug 07 2012 6:00am

Sinai Hospital is going into space!

Okay, not literally. But research that will be going on at The Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute (BSI) may one day help keep astronauts on space missions healthy.

The BSI has been awarded one of 29 grants by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) and NASA’s Human Research Program to help investigate questions about astronaut health and performance on future deep-space exploration missions. The approximately $1 million grant from NSBRI will fund a three-year project, which will be led by Michael A. Williams, M.D. , medical director of the BSI.

One of the things NASA is investigating is the vision problems astronauts experience during long-term spaceflight. These problems have been linked to elevated spinal fluid pressure, also known as ICP (intracranial pressure), caused by the low gravity conditions in space. The project at the BSI will assess the accuracy of two noninvasive methods of measuring spinal fluid pressure as compared to measuring ICP via spinal tap. 

(Complex medical terminology note: The two methods being tested are tympanic membrane displacement (TMD) and distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE).)

The project will play an important role in the validation of these methods of measuring ICP in a low gravity environment. This is particularly important because invasive procedures such as a spinal tap are not possible in space. Currently, noninvasive measurement methods are not accurate enough to allow doctors to make crucial diagnostic and therapeutic decisions for astronauts in spaceflight.

The study will be conducted on human patients aged 18 to 65 years who require continuous ICP monitoring and who have agreed to participate in the project.

Projects like these are very important. NASA is planning a manned mission to Mars for sometime in the 2030s. And there are many things the agency has to figure out before such a mission is attempted.

We are excited to see how the study goes for the BSI!

For more information about NSBRI, NASA’s Human Research Program and the complete list of selected projects, go here.

-Noel Lloyd

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