Women’s International Simulation for Exploration

The second campaign of the Women’s International Space Simulation for Exploration (WISE) study has been fully under way at the MEDES clinic, in Toulouse, France since October 1st, 2005. The first campaign began in January of this year. A team of international scientists is taking part in this multi-year research venture between the European Space Agency (ESA), the French Space Agency (CNES), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Two Canadian researchers are participating in the year-long study: Dr. Richard L. Hughson, from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and Dr. Guy Trudel, from the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Hughson is a leading expert in cardiovascular research while Dr. Trudel specializes in musculoskeletal research.

The 12 female participants from France, Finland, Switzerland and Britain are now lying in bed, head tilted down below their feet at an angle of 6ยบ below horizontal. The women have been divided in three groups; a control group, receiving no extra treatment over the 60-day bed-rest period, a second group assigned an exercise program whilst in bed and a third group receiving a nutritional supplement.

Remaining in this head-down, tilted position results in many of the physiological changes observed in astronauts during spaceflight. The study will assess the roles of nutrition and combined physical exercise in countering the adverse effects of extended gravitational unloading through bed rest. “As we see more astronaut crews made up of both men and women, it is important that we look at the role gender plays on the effects space has on the body and then the strategies we use to counter these effects” says Dr. Nicole Buckley, Director of Life and Physical Sciences at the Canadian Space Agency.

Results will prove valuable in planning long-duration human missions in space. This research will also have clinical significance on Earth, advancing knowledge and pointing to improved methods of assisting recovery by bedridden patients. Studying the early effects of reduced activity on a molecular level is also expected to provide further evidence of the benefits of regular exercise in the prevention of conditions like type-II diabetes and high blood pressure.

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