Broadcast 1447 (Special Edition)

18 Oct 2010 Dr. Robert Fitts
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Guest: Dr. Robert Fitts. Topic: "Prolonged Space Flight and Human Muscles." We welcomed Dr. Robert Fitts to the program to discuss his new research on astronaut muscle atrophy as a result of space flight. The full title of the study for which he was the P.I. is "Prolonged Space Flight-Induced Alternations in the Structure and Function of Human Skeletal Muscle Fibres." The study was published in the Journal of Physiology, Vol. 588, pp. 3567-3592 in the September 2010 edition. Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and rate this program on the new Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. During our first segment, Dr. Fitts told us about the origins of the study and we summarized his conclusions in that high resistance devises and an improved astronaut diet may be able to reduce muscle atrophy in space to about 10% from its current levels. In discussing this, we learned that Russian cosmonauts using a treadmill seem to have better results than American astronauts using a stationary bike. Dr. Fitts suggested that high resistance equipment and exercises be used, especially for the legs at a level of 80% the peak load for the person. Dr. Fitts talked about other forms of exercise including isometrics and why they were not so desirable for use in space. He also suggested that while American astronauts do very well with the bike for cardiovascular exercise, they would do better to do high resistance leg exercises for a shorter time but more frequently during the day. In the second segment, Dr. Rowe called in with questions about the work of Kaare Rodahl who years ago suggested that astronauts might have to do exercise for 15 minutes out of each waking hour. Dr. Fitts suggested that exercise routines, equipment, and diet were far better today so he doubted that astronauts would be spending that much time exercising, but he again said that their study suggests shorter periods of exercise more frequently during the day. We talked about bed rest studies in this segment and Joe from Houston called in with several questions about astronaut back pain. In the context of Joe's questions, Dr. Fitts talked about the iRED and aRED exercise devices on the ISS. Don't miss this discussion. Several questions came in about artificial gravity and Mars gravity as well as questions about the effectiveness of astronauts wearing the Penguin support space clothing. As you will hear, the suit turned out to be less than effective as it was not load bearing on muscles. At the end of this segment, the issue of bringing up new equipment to the ISS came up given the retirement of the shuttle. Don't miss what Dr. Fitts had to say about this. In our third and final segment, Terry called in and wanted to know about muscle loss on the way to Mars. Dr. Fitts suggested that most of the muscle loss takes place early on in the mission, perhaps in the first thirty days. Questions about using drugs to treat the problem were addressed and Dr. Fitts said he hoped we don't have to go there for solutions. Listen to this discussion to hear why he said that. Barbara in Tucson changed the direction of the questions when she asked our guests about the impact on the science and research given his earlier comments about not being able to get hardware or experiments up to the ISS due to the shuttle's retirement. Don't miss this discussion. In fact, we expanded this discussion by asking Dr. Fitts to assess the future for this type of research and the impact of new policy directions on students. You don't want to miss what Dr. Fitts had to say about students and the future. If you have comments or questions for Dr. Fitts, please post them on the blog above and send them to me and I will forward them to our guest.

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