NASA study examines cardiovascular health of astronauts and crew members

A study from NASA is examining how spaceflight affects the cardiovascular physiology of astronauts and crew members aboard the International Space Station.

The Cardio Ox study will determine whether oxidative and inflammatory stress biomarkers increase during and after space flight and increase astronauts’ long-term atherosclerosis risk.

During the study, 12 crew members provide blood and urine samples before launch, 15 and 60 days after launch, 15 days before returning to Earth and within days after landing. They also receive ultrasound scans of the carotid and brachial arteries at the same time points and through five years after landing.

The expedition for the study took place from September 2013 to March 2016. A second phase is taking place from March 2016 through March 2017. Steven H. Platts, PhD, of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, in the study’s lead investigator.

“The experiment is designed to determine whether markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in the blood and urine are elevated in astronauts participating in long-duration space flight and whether there are concomitant changes in arterial structure and function,” the researchers wrote. “Specifically, this study seeks to clarify the previously conflicting observations regarding oxidative stress and inflammation during and after space flight and relate these to long-term changes in vascular structure and function which might predict future development of atherosclerosis in astronauts.”