Michael Braukus Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1979) Linda Copley Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX (Phone

: 281/483-5111)

May 19, 1997

Lori Rachul Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH (Phone: 216/433-8806) Rob Whitehouse The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH (Phone: 216/444-8927) RELEASE: 97-101 NASA AWARDS GRANT TO CLEVELAND CLINIC TO STUDY THE EFFECTS OF SPACE FLIGHT ON ASTRONAUTSÕ HEARTS In preparation for an inhabited International Space Station at the end of this century, The Cleveland Clinic and NASA will study ways to monitor the effects of long-term space flight on the human heart and develop conditioning regimens to counteract those effects. This morning at The Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin and U.S. Representative Louis Stokes announced a two-year, $4 million grant to support the research and development of a digital echocardiography lab at The Clinic. "We know that astronauts who spend longer periods of time in space experience cardiovascular 'de-conditioning.' They return to Earth weakened and with low blood pressure, less blood volume, and a loss of tone to their blood vessels," said James D. Thomas, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of Cardiovascular Imaging at The Cleveland Clinic. "However, we don't know why this happens and if the heart itself is weakened. Whether people are going to live in space stations or embark on longterm missions to other worlds, we must better understand and then counteract this de-conditioning process." "This Cooperative Agreement is the result of the vision

Congressman Louis Stokes had that prompted NASA to explore the capabilities of The Clinic, and we're glad we did," said Daniel S. Goldin, NASAÕs administrator. "It partners the expertise of The Clinic and the Johnson Space Center to enable planned human space endeavors and to improve the quality of life on Earth." Digital echocardiographic equipment will be on the Space Station when it is operational. Echocardiography is more practical for life in space than other imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging, because it requires less power, is noninvasive, is small and versatile, and is not magnetic or radioactive, said Dr. Thomas. Before the station is operational, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and NASA must: · develop methods of compressing the digital data from the echocardiogram so it can be quickly and clearly relayed to physicians on Earth; · train astronauts and NASA personnel to perform the echocardiograms and develop protocols for using the equipment in outer space; and · better understand the effects of weightlessness on the heart and enact a conditioning regimen for astronauts in space. "The digital echocardiography lab at The Clinic will allow physicians here to view astronauts' heart function, make diagnoses, and prescribe a course of action. In a sense, itÕll be our first extraterrestrial house call," said Dr. Thomas. The results of this collaborative project will have an impact on health care on Earth. For example, Dr. Thomas explained, the data compression techniques will further enhance the growing field of telemedicine by allowing for the transmission of clearer images between sites. The Cleveland Clinic currently uses telemedicine technology to link medical specialists in Cleveland to patients as near as The Clinic's suburban family health centers and as far away as the Middle East and Central America. "In addition, all of this new imaging technology will help us better study the function of the heart and detect previously unseen leakages through heart valves and subtle abnormalities that can lead to congestive heart failure," said Dr. Thomas. "Three-dimensional echocardiography soon will be the norm, and

thanks to this cooperative agreement with NASA, we'll be at the leading edge of it." This is not the first such cooperative effort between The Cleveland Clinic and NASA. In 1995, they announced a threeyear pact to collaborate on a number of research projects that will benefit both the space program and the general public. In one of those projects, researchers also are focusing on the health effects of weightlessness on astronauts, specifically on how it causes a degeneration of bone in the feet and lower legs. There, too, researchers are developing conditioning exercises to stimulate bone growth in outer space. - end -