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Guest: Dr. Joyce Liao; Eye-brain issues in microgravity, vision issues in space, eye medical instrumentation in space, optic nerve and fluid pressure plus more.
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We welcomed Dr. Joyce Liao to this two part 88 minute discussion about eye-brain and visual issues in microgravity. I strongly urge you view her AIAA LA-LV Mini Conference Presentation from April 17, 2020. You can view it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXhNGVgiOVE.
We started our two segment 88 minute discussion by asking Dr. Liao to introduce us to the issues and challenges with eye-brain microgravity issues. We spent most of the first segment discussing these matters, the research, possible mitigation strategies, consequences of the problem, problem differences in space with microgravity than with the same issues here on Earth, plus the impact on astronauts experiencing these visual problems while on a mission. Dr. Liao provided us with a comprehensive discussion regarding the in space visual problems so don't miss the discussion.
Fremont John was our first caller. He wanted to know if most if not all the data for researching this problem was from ISS studies and astronauts. The answer was yes because for now, there is no other source for this information. John and I both brought up the issue of artificial gravity and how it might mitigate the microgravity visual problems. Dr. Liao talked about the JAXA research using a 3 D printed centrifuge for mice. She also explained why mice, not rats or other rodents or animals. This was most interesting, especially the part about being able to manage animal experiments in space. Note what Dr. Liao said about artificial gravity, the gravity prescription and the use of variable gravity. Lots of unknowns that require good answers.
A later email from a Seattle listener asked Dr. Liao if radiation contributed to the problem being discussed. She said there was overlap but again, insufficient research at this time. Still, listen to what she said regarding collateral damage, not just from radiation but from other human medical issues in space. Next, Ben from Denver asked about possibly using anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent optic nerve swelling. Our guest had much to say on this medication approach. I asked about using aspirin or Tylenol, even blood thinners. Her response was mostly a no go for these medications but listen to all of what Dr. Liao said on the topic.
Marshall called to talk about parallax, bifocal glasses in space and related issues. He brought up parallax problems in space compared to here on Earth regarding one eye versus the same in both eyes. After this call, Mars came up plus more listener questions about using artificial gravity and for how long avoid a problem. Our guest thought probably for at least as long as astronauts exercise on the ISS but again, no real research exists to determine values and prescriptions. Another listener asked if a space helmet could be devised to prevent fluid shifts and optic nerve swelling.
The topic of ISS eye exam equipment, astronaut eye medicine and diagnosis training came up. She said the astronauts were trained and there was certain state of the art equipment on board that many eye doctors and eye centers do not even have here on Earth in their offices. This was a fascinating discussion, including learning that astronauts are trained to examine and diagnose and care for their own eye problems.
For the second segment, we started off talking about hypoxia and Covid-19. Our guest talked about the ISS being pressurized to sea level but that airplanes were not and hypoxia can be a severe problem. In addition, Covid-19 and the immune system were discussed in some detail as she showed how microgravity adversely impacts the immune system. She talked about altitude, hypoxia and the immune system for most of the second segment. This discussion led to an email from Joe in Tucson asking about ISS and space temperatures and eye problems. He wanted to know the difference with a cooler as compared to a warmer temperature.
Ft. Worth John called to get a handle on astronaut vision changes and how they impact the function while carrying out the mission. Following the exchange with our guest and John, I asked about astronaut physical fitness, the fitness of potential tourists and space tourists as I saw a correlation with fitness to the immune system which Dr. Liao had been talking about. This question solicited a lengthy response form our guest. Next, Dr. Liao was asked about the return to the Moon timeline of 2028 and if some of the visual challenges would be mitigated between now and then. On the job research and analysis came up along with the use of more telemedicine. Before we ended, we spent several minutes on space tourism, space settlement and orbiting space hotels. Our guest signed off after offering us closing comments.
Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Liao on the blog for this show. You can reach Dr. Joyce Liao through me or her Stanford University faculty and medical pages.