A joint NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) bed-rest studyof females will help scientists understand what womenastronauts will go through during long journeys in space.Changes in the immune system could have serious effects onan astronaut?s ability to resist infection and may increasethe possibility of her developing cancerous tumors. Stayingon the International Space Station (ISS) for extendedperiods will expose astronauts to chronic radiation thatcould result in serious health problems.
By testing women volunteers before, during and after longperiods of bed rest, researcher Gerald Sonnenfeld will beable to tell whether their white blood cells continue todivide normally. He will also study the frequency at whichlatent viruses are reactivated and whether participants?bodies mount an immune response to a harmless vaccine,phiX174, that is introduced into their bodies during the study.
Each volunteer is assigned to one of three groups, whichinclude bed rest, bed rest with a series of exercises forthe lower body, and bed rest with a nutritional supplement.Participants lie with their heads tilted six degrees belowhorizontal so that their feet are slightly higher than theirheads.
Sonnenfeld says, “In the past, most bed-rest studies forimmunity have been carried out on men?[Now] scientists andthe space community want valid conclusions about effects onwomen.”
Women thinkdifferently than men: Not only do their brains workdifferently, but they?ve learned to trust theirintuition?somethingwhich scientists have come to appreciate in recent years.
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