Vascular Echo: Another step toward cardiovascular health

Using Space to Fight Cardiovascular Disease with Astronaut Tim Peake

Using space to fight cardiovascular disease

The Vascular research project, which was conducted aboard the International Space Station from 2009 to 2014, led to the discovery of a potential health risk for astronauts during long space flights: accelerated stiffening of the arteries. On Earth, arterial stiffening is associated with aging and physical inactivity. It raises blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Building upon the knowledge gained during the Vascular experiment, Vascular Echo examines the mechanisms that underpin accelerated arterial stiffening in astronauts in order to devise countermeasures to slow vascular aging. The project will likely help maintain astronauts' health and improve health and quality of life here on Earth.

What can participating astronauts expect?

Before, during and after their space flight, nine astronauts will undergo blood tests and ultrasounds at rest and during exertion.

The research study will examine the changes that occur in the heart and blood vessels during a stay in space and will track the participants' recovery after their return to Earth. The changes observed will be associated with blood biomarkers reflecting risk factors for arterial stiffness, as well as those related to the development of insulin resistance.

European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake gets an ultrasound of his leg onboard the International Space Station to help collect data for the Vascular Echo Study

2016-05-30 - In May 2016, European Space Agency astronaut (ESA) Tim Peake had an ultrasound of his leg onboard the ISS to help collect data for the Vascular Echo study. With a probe strapped over a large artery in his thigh, Tim did 30 foot extensions in 60 seconds to exercise his calf muscle. The data will allow the researchers to measure the increase in blood flow and velocity in that artery. The nine astronauts who are Vascular Echo's test subjects will undergo the following tests before, during and after space flight: resting ultrasound; ultrasound during exertion; leg doppler ultrasound; 24-hour blood pressure monitoring; and blood samples. (Credit: NASA)

2015-11-25 - Before and after spaceflight the Vascular Echo research team takes measurements of the arteries with ultrasound and pressure sensors to determine arterial stiffness. (Credit: Dr. Richard Hughson)

Vascular Echo is being led by Dr. Richard Hughson of the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging with funding from the Canadian Space Agency.

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