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Researchers explore medicine in space

hetic was used. Doctors still need to understand the effects of general anesthesia, the method of sedation used in most surgeries.

Prior to UF's study, the only real data showing how weightlessness affects general anesthesia, came from a mission in which two Rhesus monkeys were sent to space. When the monkeys returned to Earth, surgeons performed minor biopsies on them as part of their study. One of the monkeys died, 'presumably because of an interaction with anesthesia,' Seubert said.

So far, UF researchers have found no distinct differences providing anesthesia intravenously in simulated weightless or normal gravity conditions. According to Seubert the differences are actually greater between individuals, who require varying amounts of anesthesia, a phenomenon that happens no matter where the surgery occurs.

To simulate weightlessness, participants in the ongoing UF study are confined to strict bed rest, with their bodies tilted six degrees head down.

'The normal gravitational vector is from the head to the feet, so if you put somebody slightly head down, that completely offloads the musculature, the skeleton and the circulation, and it causes adaptations in bone, muscle and circulation that are very similar to real space flight, minus the nausea that comes with not having gravity,' Seubert said.

Seubert also feels that aside from understanding how anesthesia affects the body during and after space flight, researchers also must analyze even the smallest details to ensure astronauts receive proper medical care in outer space.

He illustrates this further. On Earth, when patients are given anesthesia through intravenous tubes, the bags hang from racks and gravity pushes up any air bubbles that may be mixed in with the drug. In space, however, air bubbles and medicine would mingle, potentially allowing bubbles to be infused into patients.

Seubert points out that, medicine taken orally als
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