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Researchers explore medicine in space

Researchers want doctors to be ready to handle medical problems and surgeries in space before astronauts start moving further into it. //In the present state, what happens when a person develops a problem say, in Mars? He or she can't get back to normal conditions for treatment in time simply because it takes over three years to reach Mars! Preliminary findings from a UF study show there is little difference in the dose of general anesthesia needed to anesthetize patients in weightless or normal gravity environments. It's a major step forward, but just one of many hurdles researchers face in trying to establish proper medical protocols in space, UF researchers write in the October issue of the Journal of Gravitational Physiology.

Christoph Seubert, lead author of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration-funded study and a UF assistant professor of anesthesiology, shares information on various aspects of this issue.He says,'There are lots of little technical things that have to be thought through and tried out in order to translate what we consider normal medical care into a space environment.. What (anesthesia) you use and how the drugs react is only a small part of the picture.'

In the event of a medical emergency in space,Seubert states that, astronauts on shorter missions to orbit the Earth or travelling to the International Space Station, could get back to ground within a day; but from Mars or even a lunar base, that's not possible. Depending where it is in orbit, the space station is usually 200 to 600 miles from the Earth's surface. The moon is about 238,000 miles from Earth while Mars is, on average, about 140 million miles away.

'A trip to the red planet would likely be a three-year endeavor for astronauts,' comments Seubert.

French doctors recently performed the first surgery in weightless conditions, operating during an airplane flight designed to mimic weightlessness. However, only a local anest
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