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Going To Extremes To Improve Human Health

A new research tool will allow University of Oregon scientists to replicate an extreme range of environmental conditions in their quest to test and understand the human body's response to everyday stresses.

The instrument, called an environmental chamber, is a 12-foot-square room capable of simulating altitude up to 18,000 feet, holding temperature constant at a set point between 14 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and controlling humidity anywhere from 10 to 95 percent. The chamber is so finely tuned that it can swing from the coldest to hottest setting in 30 minutes.

"The presence of the environmental chamber at the University of Oregon will assure the next generation of researchers is well versed in both cutting-edge molecular methods and in traditional integrative, exercise, and environmental physiology." said John Halliwill, an assistant professor of human physiology. His research includes a special focus on sleep apnea which can set the stage for high blood pressure.

Halliwill, who also studies factors responsible for changes in blood flow to various regions of the body, co-directs the university's Exercise and Environmental Physiology Laboratories with Chris Minson, an associate professor of human physiology.

Minson said the chamber fast-tracks the university's clinical research program in cardiology, a partnership with PeaceHealth's Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene. About 40 physicians volunteer their expertise by teaching and assisting with research in the human physiology labs.

"The chamber allows us to monitor minute changes in the vascular and respiratory systems of subjects both at rest and when exercising," Minson explained. "It's already opening up new realms for our research mission."

One example of the chamber's potential is enhancing researchers' ability to explore fatigue. "Physical and mental fatigue may not be commonly perceived as work hazards, but fatigue often is a fundamental cause of accidents
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Source:University of Oregon


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