Planetary Habitat Simulation
The aim of the European Commission Framework 7 project "Planetary Habitat Simulation" (acronym:PlanHab) is to investigate the combined and interactive effects of hypoxia and sustained recumbency (bedrest), on human physiological systems. The partial pressure of oxygen in the environmental gas inside future planetary habitats will be lower than in atmospheric air. Prolonged exposure to low gravity will result in deconditioning of vital physiological systems, and may pose a threat to the long-term health of astronauts. However, it is not known how prolonged exposure to both reduced gravity and hypoxia will affect human health. Our research is also a clinical model for patients who suffer from respiratory insufficiency, ultimately restricting them to a physically inactive life-style. The challenge of this project lies in the complexity of the experimental interventions. Indeed, healthy humans are confined to a hypoxic environment and prolonged bedrest for a full 21-days. The participants either remain in horizontal position (bedrest) or they can be ambulatory, but they are always confined to the special hypoxia floor in the bedrest facility. Each of their three trials will consist of: 1. hypoxic bedrest (at a simulated altitude of 4000 m), 2. normoxic bedrest, and 3. hypoxic ambulation. The physiological effects of each condition will be investigated in a series of scientific experiments, including: metabolic, cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, haematological, immunological and thermoregulatory functions. In addition to these specific objectives, PlanHab is exploratory in the sense that it will collect a broad spectrum of basic data corresponding to other bedrest experiments previously conducted by the European Space Agency and NASA. Our data can then be directly compared to previous bedrest studies.