Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Foot pressure device may stamp out muscle loss

08.10.2002


Research to Aid Astronauts Also Could Help Bed-Ridden Patients on Earth



These boots weren’t made for walkin’, but “space boots” under development at the University of Houston may help astronauts stay healthy and readjust more quickly to walking again on terra firma.

University of Houston researchers have developed technology that could help combat the loss of muscle mass, strength and coordination experienced by astronauts during long-duration stints in microgravity. The system also may have earth-bound applications in rehabilitation therapy for bed-ridden patients.


Charles Layne, associate professor and chair of the UH Department of Health and Human Performance, and his colleagues developed a mechanical system that stimulates muscle activity in the legs by attempting to mimic the natural sensory input feet receive while walking, running or jumping.

“We’re not using electricity to directly stimulate the leg muscles, but rather a series of plungers that push against the bottom of the foot in specific patterns, which mimics the pressure one feels while walking around in normal gravity,” Layne says.

The researchers will publish a study in an upcoming issue of the journal Neuroscience Letters that describes how mechanical foot stimulation generates enhanced neuromuscular activity in the legs. Layne and his graduate student, Katherine Forth, will give presentations about their work during the World Space Congress 2002 in Houston Oct. 10-19.

In normal gravity, when you move your arms while standing or walking, muscles in your legs and trunk contract in certain ways to regulate your center of gravity and keep you from falling down.

But in space-based experiments, Layne and other researchers have previously found that when you’re floating free in space and move your arms around, postural activity in the legs and back is reduced. “This is the same situation that occurs when you lie on your back on the ground. In a stable posture, there’s no opportunity to fall over when you raise your arms, so the muscle activity in the legs disappears,” Layne says.

Layne developed a primitive space boot several years ago that incorporated an air bladder that applied static pressure to the bottom of the foot. The idea was to trick a free-floating astronaut’s nervous system by mimicking the pressure one’s feet feel while standing on the ground.

Astronauts on board the Russian Space Station MIR wore Layne’s first boots, and data collected from those flights indicated that continuous foot pressure from the boots resulted in enhanced muscle activity in the crew’s legs as they moved about their daily routine.

Now Layne and his UH colleagues are taking space boot technology another step forward.
Working with mechanical engineers in the UH Cullen College of Engineering, Layne has improved the foot-pressure technology. The researchers replaced the static air bladder with a dynamic system that uses a series of mechanical plungers to push against the bottom of the feet in patterns that mimic what feet actually feel while in action.

When you learn a new skill, like juggling, your muscles and nervous system work together to form a series of connections. The more you perform that activity, the stronger those connections are reinforced. This “use it or lose it” principal works for your neural connections as well as for your muscles, Layne says.

“While you’re in microgravity or bed-ridden, and not getting sensory input from the bottom of your feet, neither your leg muscles nor the nerves controlling their movement are active. You lose not only muscle mass, but also the ability to control your muscles in a coordinated fashion to produce efficient movement,” he says.

During long-duration space flights, such as on board the International Space Station, the successful completion of mission objectives is dependent on physical performance. Also, the maintenance of the astronauts’ health and physical condition upon their return to Earth – or upon landing on Mars – is a primary concern, Layne says.

Layne and his colleagues are in the process of developing a new boot-type device based on the dynamic foot pressure concept, one that could be worn by astronauts to serve as a supplement to exercise during space flight, as well as an effective rehabilitation technique for bed-ridden patients. “We want to optimize the patterns of sensory stimulation as well as the amount and time of pressure application. The goal is not only to reduce muscle loss but also help the nervous system retain those connections so that you can get back to optimal performance as quickly as possible, or return to some degree of functionality if you’re bed-ridden.”

The paper to be published in Neuroscience Letters describes the temporal relationship between the sensory input to the foot and the subsequent muscle activation in the legs. Human subjects had the dynamic pressure device hooked up to their feet while sensors placed on their skin picked up changes in the electrical activity in their leg muscles, which indicates the muscle is contracting.

“We could control when the pressure was applied to our subjects’ feet, and vary the application relative to when the subjects contracted their leg muscles,” Layne says. The study indicates applying the stimulus immediately before a leg muscle contracts enhances muscle activity more than stimulating the foot during or after the contraction.

Currently, Layne and his colleagues are conducting studies to determine whether foot pressure can actually prevent muscle wasting, and if so, by how much.

Amanda Siegfried | University of Houston
Further information:
http://www.uh.edu/admin/media/sciencelist.html

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance
25.09.2017 | Institut Pasteur

nachricht MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer
25.09.2017 | Case Western Reserve University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>