SFU aerospace physiology team to test health of UAE astronaut

September 06, 2023
o Right: Da Xu, Tiffany Stead, Katie Samoil, Catherine Taylor, Andrew Blaber

Researchers in Andrew Blaber’s Aerospace Physiology Lab are travelling to Houston, Texas this week to connect with astronauts whose recent return from space will provide new details about how to keep them healthier for future space missions. 

Among participates in the CARDIOBREATH study, led by Blaber and funded by the Canadian Space Agency, is Sultan Al Neyadi, the first Arab astronaut in history on a long mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The focus of the CARDIOBREATH study is to examine how astronauts’ cardiovascular and respiratory systems adapt to the weightlessness their bodies experience while in space. This can help researchers devise therapy and recovery programs that keep astronauts healthy on longer voyages, such as the Artemis II lunar mission planned for 2024.

Volunteer study participants including astronaut Al Neyadi wear the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) Bio-Monitor shirt, which collects data on blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and functioning of the heart muscle through electrocardiogram monitoring.

Astronauts first exercise on Earth wearing the smart shirt while cycling on a stationary bike for 25 minutes and then while standing still to measure balance. The astronauts then participate in the same exercise using the Cycle Ergometer on the ISS.

Now that Al Neyadi and the other SpaceX Crew-6 members have returned to Earth after six months in space, the researchers will repeat the cycling and balance exercise to measure the impacts on his body.

Blaber leads the CARDIOBREATH study, which also involves researchers from the University of North Dakota. The project is funded by the CSA.

According to Blaber, our bodies undergo a deconditioning process similar to accelerated aging in the weightlessness of space. The changes to an astronauts’ cardiovascular systems can cause them to easily tire and faint when they return to Earth.

Their study findings can be used to develop individualized recovery plans for astronauts and also potentially help elderly patients who are recovering from a long hospital stay. The effects of prolonged bed rest can also increase fatigue and cause fainting.

Research by Blaber and team into the impacts of bed rest and exercise on the human body, are soon to be published in the journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.