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Impact of Long Duration Space Flight on Cardiac Structure and Function (NCC958CA02203)
Principal Investigators
Research Area:
Cardiovascular physiology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

As astronauts venture farther into space, the impact of long-term microgravity on cardiovascular function may become a critical limitation to mission safety and success. The first task in this experiment was to develop and validate methodology to extract strain and torsion from the International Space Station (ISS) echocardiograms and combined it with the numerous pre- and post-flight studies that were conducted over the years. This gave investigators a comprehensive view of the heart in space, information which was integrated into evolving mathematical models of the heart.

Exposure to microgravity induces short and long-term changes in the cardiovascular system, with cardiac atrophy, orthostatic hypotension and impaired thermoregulation being the most recognizable. The most obvious issue, noted in the majority of astronauts after long-term space flight, is orthostatic hypotension. While its importance is clear, the etiology remains uncertain, with proposed mechanisms including hypovolemia, impaired baroreflexes, and left ventricular atrophy leading to systolic and/or diastolic dysfunction. In order to better define these issues, NASA conducted a flight study titled Cardiac Atrophy and Diastolic Dysfunction During and After Long Duration Spaceflight: Functional Consequences for Orthostatic Intolerance, Exercise Capacity, and Risk of Cardiac Arrhythmias. This study is also referred to as the Integrated Cardiovascular Study, or ICV.

The investigator’s team were extensively involved in the development of the next generation of echo machines and had the unique opportunity to develop and validate advanced applications for space use. They focused on massively parallelized echo machines capable of real-time 3D imaging with automated volume measurements and comprehensive 3D strain and torsion analysis. This study had the following specific aims:

  1. Validate strain and torsion data from HDI-5000 data.
  2. Quantitative analysis of echo data.
  3. Integration of the pre-, in-, and post-flight data into evolving numerical models of the cardiovascular system.

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Hussan JR, Hunter PJ, Gladding PA, Greenberg N, Christie R, Wu A, Sorby H, and Thomas JD. ICMA: an integrated cardiac modeling and analysis platform. Bioinformatics. 2015. April 15; 31(8):1331-3.

Iskovitz I, Kassemi M, and Thomas JD. Impact of weightlessness on cardiac shape and left ventricular stress/strain distributions. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering. 2013. December; 135(12):121008.

Cardiovascular physiology
Computational biology
Finite element analysis
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Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. No data sets are available for this experiment. Please Contact LSDA if you know of available data for this investigation.

Cardiac atrophy
Orthostatic hypotension

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration. Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity, and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors, and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.

The Human Research Roadmap is located at:

+ Click here for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Pamela A. Bieri
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2009 Crew Health NNJ09ZSA002N