Michael Braukus Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

May 15, 1992 (Phone: 202/453-1549) Jane Hutchison Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-9000) RELEASE: 92-67 NASA BED-REST STUDY INVESTIGATES IMPORTANCE OF GRAVITY Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif., are investigating the importance of gravity to life on Earth. They also are studying whether intermittent exposure to gravity may, as a last resort, help keep future space explorers healthy. Volunteers in a recently completed study were confined to their beds for 24-hours a day in the head-down position to induce the physical changes associated with exposure to the microgravity of space. Results of the study indicated that these volunteers could avoid the changes simply by standing quietly for 15 minutes of each hour over a 16-hour period. Standing for two hours a day (15 minutes each hour over an 8-hour period) or walking at 3 mph were almost as effective, according to Dr. Joan Vernikos, the study's Principal Investigator and Acting Chief of Ames' Life Science Division. "The question we must answer is both practical and basic: 'How much gravity, how often and for how long?'" Vernikos said. From a practical perspective, "We must know whether humans need gravity 24 hours a day to remain healthy," she said. If intermittent gravity, which can be provided by an onboard centrifuge, is sufficient, "We won't need a permanently rotating spacecraft to produce a constant gravity force." A

rotating spacecraft presents serious design, financial and operational challenges. On a basic level, Vernikos said, this and future studies can help explain gravity's role in the development of life on Earth. In a series of five 6-day experiments conducted over 8 months with the same male volunteers, the team of investigators compared the effects of gravity's head-to-toe "pull" with or without activity. All the volunteers spent 4 days in bed, with a 6-degree head-down tilt. - more -2They remained in bed throughout one of the 6-day tests. In other tests, they remained in bed except for either standing quietly by the bed or walking at 3 mph for 2 or 4 hours a day in 15-minute segments. Vernikos said the results showed the 4-day, head-down bed rest model to be an excellent simulation of many of the early physical responses to the microgravity of space. Changes found in astronauts in space -- including reduced blood volume, fluid and sodium loss, decreased aerobic performance and a tendency to faint upon standing after return to Earth -- also were seen in these bed-rested volunteers. She said changes begin within hours after the volunteers go "head-down" and continue to develop through the next several days. Vernikos said this study is only the beginning. She and her collaborators plan to conduct similar tests using the large centrifuge at Ames. By having healthy volunteers exercise on a treadmill on the centrifuge, Ames investigators "hope to determine whether exercising under increased gravitational forces will decrease the amount of time required to maintain health and fitness," she said. By spinning at various speeds, the centrifuge produces forces that exceed the normal gravity force on Earth. Some scientists believe that exercise at such increased gravitational forces may further reduce the daily minimum exposure time needed to prevent the effects of simulated and actual microgravity. Ames investigators also hope to learn whether passive

exposure to an increased gravity force may maintain fitness. "We're trying to learn whether it's the activity or simply the presence of gravity that's most important," she said. She added that results of these tests could have great potential for rehabilitation and treatment of various injuries on Earth, such as fractures. Vernikos and her collaborators presented the results of this study May 14 in a special panel at the annual meeting of the Aerospace Medicine Association in Miami. - end -