**** NEW PROJECT ****

Effects of bed rest Immobilization on Cardio-Postural control and Regulation

Sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency


Blaber A.P

Co-Investigators: Denise P (France), Goswami N (Austria), Leguy C (Germany), Normand H (France), Simon L (Hungary), Tavakolian K (USA), Xu D (Canada)


Astronauts often experience dizziness and light-headedness upon standing after landing, which could lead to fainting and falls. This research investigates the interactions between the control of posture muscle contractions and the regulation of the heart and blood vessels in response to blood pressure changes upon standing. Over the long term, the research outcomes will be applied to the design of countermeasures for astronauts.

The six degree head-down bed rest position is used to simulate human physiological changes during spaceflight. Its effects on the interaction between the cardiovascular and postural systems (cardio-postural control) will be assessed before and after confinement to bed at the MEDES facilities. During bed confinement, changes in the cardiovascular regulation will also be monitored to determine its contribution to the overall process of spaceflight deconditioning. 

The cardiovascular changes that occur in spaceflight parallel those of the aging process. Therefore, the research will improve the understanding of the underlying factors that contribute to falls and might help the development of fall prevention strategies for the elderly.




Preventing postural hypotension, syncope and falls with smart materials and monitoring. (NSERC/CIHR):

Investigators: Andrew Blaber, Carlo Menon, Victoria Claydon

"Disorders associated with excessive swelling of the legs are common. This swelling can be associated with pain, the production of varicose veins, reduced blood pressure (hypotension) when standing; and, cause light-headedness, fainting and falls. These events can significantly affect quality of life and, in severe cases, lead to death. It is well documented that up to 30% of the elderly have standing hypotension. Approximately 1 in 62 Canadians suffer with swelling (about 7 million people in North America). Swelling is common during pregnancy and ranks highly as one of the causes of varicose veins. Control of blood flow and volume in the lower limbs of spinal cord injury patients is also a health risk for the 86,000 Canadians living with spinal cord injury. Current physical remedies to these disorders include air compression leg massagers, which do not allow for ambulatory use, and compression stockings, which attempt to limit blood pooling and fluid build-up in the legs during walking. However, neither of these devices is able to adapt to the changing physiological conditions of the patient and compression stockings can provide only passive assistance to oedema. The main goal of this interdisciplinary project is therefore to develop a novel smart-technology-assisted therapy to effectively assist with fluid volume control in the legs of humans with excessive swelling or standing hypotension. Our objectives are to develop the technology and therapeutic application protocols required to provide effective blood pressure and volume control in three initial groups: spinal cord injury, pregnant women and the elderly. We will develop smart stockings whose compressive pressure can be modulated through external stimuli. These stockings will be embedded with Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEA), which are inexpensive smart materials that can deform through electrical activation. We propose an innovative solution that can potentially drastically alleviate cardiovascular disorders caused by swelling and chronic or temporary standing hypotension which can be used both in medical and domestic settings. The proposed technology is potentially inexpensive and portable."