Bedrest Study Examines How The Body Changes In Space
November 12, 2012

Bedrest Study Examines How The Body Changes In Space

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

The European Space Agency (ESA) has enlisted 12 volunteers to spend 21 days in bed in an experiment to help understand how astronauts' bodies change in space.

The volunteers in this bedrest study will undergo regular and intensive daily activities, including tests and examinations, but without stepping foot on the ground.

The ESA said their volunteers would not be allowed to get up for anything, including a breath of fresh air, to use the restroom or to take a shower.

After they complete their 21-day bedrest study, the volunteers are scheduled to give it another go within a year.

Astronauts suffer loss of bone density and muscle strength while in space, and at a much faster rate than on Earth. Finding ways to combat this process is important to space agencies, hospital patients and everyone as they continue to grow older.

The participants in the study will be scientifically scrutinized to see how they adapt to staying in bed for long periods of time.

The ESA said the research is part of a wider effort of international bedrest studies that aim to develop and test countermeasures to the challenges of living in space, aging, and long periods of immobilization after illness.

The volunteers will be placed into bed with their heads at a 6-degree below the horizontal for long periods of time. They will be divided into three groups to test a set of countermeasures to muscle and bone loss.

The control group will spend 21 days in bed without any countermeasures, while a second group will follow a schedule using resistive and vibrating exercise machines.

The last group will use the exercise machines and eat nutritional supplements of whey protein.

Whey protein is a supplement used by bodybuilders to help build muscle, but scientists are unaware if it will help maintain muscle strength without spending hours in the gym.

The volunteers will participate in all the regimes, one after the other over the course of the entire experiment of more than a year.

After the first 21-day session, they will return to the clinic in France for another two sessions next year.

The volunteers will have four months between each bedrest session to recuperate, get some rest and appreciate being out of bed, according to the space agency.