Six months in space for a better life on Earth

Photo: Ryan Remiorz, The canadian Press
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques met with the press on Wednesday in Saint-Hubert, to explain the experiments that he will conduct in the international space Station.

The Québec David Saint-Jacques will fly to the international space station (ISS) in November 2018 for a mission of six months during which it will conduct various scientific experiments designed by canadian researchers in order to study changes in the immune system, the cardiovascular system and the bone marrow during an extended stay in space. The results of these experiments will help us better understand the effects of stress and a lack of physical activity for humans on Earth.


To achieve these experiences, David Saint-Jacques will have an intelligent garment that will track their vital signs in real time. “It is a sleeveless tank top that is adjusted to the body to monitor all the parameters that are measured in an intensive care unit. The multiple sensors that are inserted in the garment to record an electrocardiogram, the volume and the pace expiratory, body movements, skin temperature, the oxygen concentration of the blood and blood pressure. The data they accumulate is then transmitted to the Earth, “says Jean-François Roy, co-founder of Carré Technologies, who has designed this” biomoniteur “. This garment biotechnology can also be used on Earth to monitor remotely the health status of people with reduced mobility who are unable to leave their home, or participants in military expeditions or sports in remote locations such as mines and operating platforms, ” said Mr. Saint-Jacques.


He will also test a ” bioanalyzer “, that is to say, a portable lab device which will analyze in real time in the space station, the blood samples taken from astronauts who otherwise would have to be sent on Earth. “This technology will be a real revolution for small and remote communities, because currently, we need to freeze the blood samples, send them to Montreal, and then wait for you to send us the results,” says Saint-Jacques, who was a doctor in Puvirnituq, an inuit village in the Arctic.


Canadian researchers have also designed an experiment referred to as the “Immune Profile”, which will be to monitor the state of the immune system by measuring a variety of certain biomarkers present in the blood during the six months of the mission, and this, thanks to the bioanalyzer. “The space environment causes the more often a collapse of the immune system, as well as sometimes a certain enhancement due to the stress. The space is a stressful environment in many ways for the body because it is different from the one in which we evolved for millions of years, which destabilizes the body and leads to changes from the point of view of several factors blood associated with the immune system which mean that the astronauts are more exposed to diseases and sometimes reactivate viruses that were latent in their bodies, such as the herpes zoster or other viral infection passed, ” says Dr. Saint-Jacques.


The lives of the astronauts in the space station in weightlessness is rather sedentary. “For this reason, they require two hours of exercises very intense by day to compensate for the fact that, during the 22 other hours, their body is no effort. These workouts help to maintain muscle strength, the strength of the tendons, the bones, but this is not comparable to “fighting the gravity for 24 hours,” he continued. The researchers will study the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, and will attempt to specify the quantity and the choice of exercises that you should do to prevent the harms of physical inactivity in space and on Earth.


The physician-researcher in rehabilitation Guy Trudel, director of the Laboratory for osteoarticular applied research at the University of Ottawa, has designed the experience Marrow, which aims to observe the changes occurring in the bone marrow, which produces red blood cells, white blood cells for immunity, and platelets to the coagulation during a stay in space. This experience is based on the observations performed in bedridden patients or forced to immobility, which showed that their os had a fat content higher than among active people. “The astronauts suffer very often of anemia the space in which the cause is not clear. We wonder if the accumulation of fat in the bones could not be one of the causes or at least contribute to its appearance. The bold would probably take the place of hematopoietic stem cells that form the blood cells in the bone marrow, ” said Dr. Trudel, whose team has designed a program of research in which we measure the fat content of the bones of the astronauts before their mission and their return to Earth, we will analyze the impact of the accumulation of fat on the red blood cells and white blood cells by taking blood samples made before departure, during their mission in space, as well as their return to Earth, and we will collect samples of expired air at these same stages, which will measure the degradation of red blood cells.


The results of this experiment will serve to the people who remain months confined to bed in intensive care, as well as the elderly move a bit, specifies the scientist.

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