The main objective of Cardiolab is to get a better understanding of mechanisms underlying the changes in the cardiovascular system and then to propose adapted prophylaxies to maintain the crew in a good health and well-being during its stay on board and to prepare the astronauts to their return on Earth. Thus, space medicine becomes a secondary objective.
In any case, the Cardiolab equipment developed for this research shows spin-offs in ground medical applications for investigation of the vascular functioning of the lower limbs, the fluid shifts and their role in generating orthostatic hypotonia or dysotonaumia. The results of this research also enable the definition of protocols for preventing disorders in regulation of arterial pressure (orthostatic hypotonia) found in 30% of elderly people.
Thus, Cardiolab allows to study the cardio vascular system, its central and peripheral regulation, and its short term and long term adaptation to altered gravity levels.
The Research Areas are the following:
Autonomous control of heart rate and circulation
- Regulation of blood pressure, perfusion and heart rate in response to space conditions, fluid shift, exercise and other external stimuli,
- Interference of basic mechanisms (at muscle level, vestibular or vascular ones) with these regulations,
- Arterial and venous hemodynamics, and properties.
Fluid volume regulation
- Overall body fluid content and composition as well as its segmental and compartmental distribution,
- Fluid volume regulation (in its short and long term components) and its close relation with cardiovascular regulation.
Europe's participation to the International Space Station was decided during the October 1995 ESA meeting in Toulouse.
The International Space Station is a global cooperative programme between the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and Europe, for the joint development, operation and utilization of a permanently inhabited space station in low Earth orbit.
The International Space Station will comprise several pressurized modules in which an international crew of up to seven astronauts can live and work. External platforms will make it possible to install observation and measurement instruments on the Station and to test out new technologies in real space environment.
The MFC (Microgravity Facilities for Columbus) Programme is the most important European contribution to the International Space Station's microgravity utilization initiative. The MFC programme covers the development of five multi-user laboratories in the fields of Biology, Human Physiology, Materials, and Fluid Science.
The European Physiology Modules facility (EPM) is a modular facility onboard the European ISS module: Columbus.
EPM supports experiments in different disciplines in Human Physiology, and is foreseen to support science in the areas of cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary physiology, neurosciences, and bone physiology.
CADMOS at CNES has been selected by ESA as Facility Responsible Centre (FRC) for EPM and for MSL/SQF (Material Science Laboratory / Solidification and Quenching Furnace).
CNES and DLR have gained a lot of experience in the cardiovascular field through the development of dedicated facilities flown on board the MIR station or Shuttle missions.
The French and German space agencies have been funding similar Life Sciences programmes for about 20 years now. Three of their complementary objectives are presented hereafter:
- The first consists in studying the biological, and physiological mechanisms related to gravity in man, animal, or living cells;
- The second consists in providing the most comfortable and safest conditions for subjects (astronauts) placed in the hostile space environment. This is the field of space medicine;
- The third is to make available the knowledge and progress achieved in Microgravity Life Sciences activity to the scientific and medical communities. The advent of the International Space Station opens unprecedented perspectives for investigation in that field.
In June 1997, CNES and DLR decided to merge their efforts to deliver EPM with a science module dedicated to the investigation of the cardiovascularsystem to serve both scientific and medical purposes. This science module is called Cardiolab.