When space travel is a blur

Canadian researchers are dealing with a brand-new method to determine the mechanics of the human eye to much better recognize astronauts at danger of establishing ocular damage prior to they enter into space. Working together with the Canadian Space Agency and NASA, Université de Montréal scientists Santiago Costantino and Mark Lesk wish to utilize their competence in determining ocular rigidness to safeguard astronauts from the negative effects that space travel can have on their vision.

“We must try to protect astronauts’ vision, because the negative repercussions of zero gravity provide clear cause for concern,” stated Costantino, a teacher at UdeM’s Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Biophotonics Research Unit at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Centre.

Most astronauts who invest more than a month in space establish space flight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS), which generally impacts their optic nerves. This condition can considerably improve the eyeball and develop folds on the retina. When back in the world, some astronauts recover in a couple of weeks, while others struggle with vision issues for several years.

“The method we’ve developed to measure and assess ocular health as the potential to identify astronauts at risk of developing SANS symptoms that can negatively impact both their health and their mission’s chances of success,” stated Costantino. Because signs worsen the longer astronauts remain in space, this might be a significant issue for prepared three-year objectives to Mars.

Non-invasive technology established in Quebec

In 2015, a non-invasive technology for determining ocular rigidness was developed by a group of CRHMR scientists consisting of Costantino and Mark Lesk, an UdeM eye doctor and director of CRHMR’s Pathophysiological Mechanisms of Glaucoma Research Unit. The researchers used the technology scientifically on almost 400 glaucoma clients. Their approach includes determining the volume of blood that gets in the eye with every heart beat. Rigidness is computed based upon modifications in blood volume and pressure inside the eye.

“Since deformed eyeballs are common among astronauts once they’re back on Earth, our working hypothesis is that rigidity will influence how much the eye changes shape,” Lesk stated. “In practical terms, a more resilient eye won’t experience as much deformation.”

To confirm their hypothesis and see how the illness establishes, the scientists will determine astronauts’ eyes on 3 different celebrations over the next numerous months: initially in Houston prior to departure, then throughout their objective at the International Space Station and once again when they’re back to Earth. Because just a handful of astronauts are introduced into space each year, the variety of research study individuals is restricted. Subsequently, the scientists anticipate to release their initial outcomes just in 2 years.


Further reading

Beaton, L., J. Mazzaferri, F. Lalonde, M. Hidalgo-Aguirre, D. Descovich, M. R. Lesk and S. Costantino. “Non-invasive measurement of choroidal volume change and ocular rigidity through automated segmentation of high-speed OCT imaging”, Biomed Opt Express, Vol. 6, No. 5, April 2015, p. 1694-1706.

Sayah, D. N., J. Mazzaferri, P. Ghesquière, R. Duval, F. Rezende, S. Costantino and M. R. Lesk. “Non-invasive in vivo measurement of ocular rigidity: Clinical validation, repeatability and method improvement”, Experimental Eye Research, Vol. 190, January 2020, 107831.

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