IAP - The Institute of Adaptive and Spaceflight Physiology

by Caroline Adenberger

 Founded in 1994, the Institute of Adaptive and Spaceflight Physiology (IAP) in Graz, Austria is a private research institution that pursues applied physiological research with emphasis on gravitational physiology and space medicine.

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In 2004, the Karl-Franzens University, the Medical University, and the Technical University of Graz established an agreement with IAP to use the Institute's infrastructure for joint R&D activities within a three-year cooperation period. "Research at IAP," explains the director of the IAP, Prof. Helmut Hinghofer-Szalkay, "primarily deals with investigations into cardiovascular and metabolic regulation in humans. To elicit well-defined stimulus responses, and to allow for appropriate systemic adaptation processes, we employ various stimulation and simulation techniques. Using a metabolic kitchen, this can be done while maintaining close control of water, electrolyte, and nutrient supplies. Environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature can be sufficiently stabilized. Body mass, fluid balance, sodium excretion, and other urinary variables can be monitored."

The philosophy of the IAP is that incorporating many perspectives is the best approach to the study of physiological systems, bringing together a diversity of complementary disciplines to unravel the complexity of life. This can be done particularly well when specific challenges - which regularly arise within the framework of space biomedicine - call for R&D efforts, stimulating integrative thinking and interdisciplinary communication.

Outstanding research with innovative methods

Many of the IAP's developments are unique. For example, the use of the mechanical oscillator technique for ultra-precise mass density measurements on biological fluids was introduced by the IAP. Furthermore, the IAP built an Automatized Human Multi-Stimulation Test Device (see figure) for freely adjustable, automatized, combined change of pitch (+70° head-up to -70° head-down tilt) and yaw (+30° to -30° sideward slant). Prof. Hinghofer explains how it works: "A lower body pressure system allows for subatmospheric (lower body negative pressure - LBNP) or positive-pressure (lower body positive pressure - LBPP) simulated (anti-)orthostasis. Transitions between any of the possible combinations of stimuli are accomplished smoothly via computer setting in less than 60 seconds. A special laser system enables precisely reproducible positioning of electrodes for thoracic impedance monitoring. The setup has a master clock system for internal synchronization of stimulus setting and data recording, and external protocol elapsed time display for precise (blood) sample timing."

IAP and international partners

Most IAP projects were - or still are - performed with close international cooperation:
    • University of Kentucky in Lexington, Center for Biomedical Engineering
    • NASA-Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California
    • IMBP (Institute for Medical-Biological Problems), Moscow, Russia
    • Institute for Experimental Endocrinology, Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovak Republic
    • Pennsylvania State University (USA)
    • Kantonshospital Basel (CH)
    • 3rd Medical Department, Semmelweis University, Budapest (HU)
    • The Lovelace Medical Institutes, Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA)
    • Csepeli Weiss Manfred Hospital, Budapest (HU)
Besides its international cooperations, IAP has also organized various international events in the past, like the 4th International Head-Out Water Immersion Symposium in 1999 or several international colloquia.

From May 22-26, 2005, the IAP organized the 15th IAA Humans in Space Symposium in Graz, Austria (see www.uni-graz.at/space2005), under the auspices of the International Astronautical Academy (IAA). About 250 top scientists from more than 20 countries worldwide attended this Symposium. Keynote lecturers included:
    • Kenneth M. Baldwin (UC Irvine) speaking on "Seeking countermeasures to the deleterious effects of spaceflight on skeletal muscle";
    • Valery V. Bogomolov (IMBP Moscow) on "The Russian experience in medical care and health maintenance of MIR and ISS crews";
    • Roger M. Bonnet (COSPAR and ISSI, Bern) on "Space science and human exploration";
    • Benton C. Clark (Lockheed Martin) on "Are we all Martians?"; and finally,
    • Günther Reitz (DLR Cologne) on "Radiation, limiting human spaceflight?"
During the days of the Symposium, three panels were held, an ESA-funded poster prize was awarded among the more then 60 posters displayed during the meeting, and David Dinges (University of Pennsylvania) gave a highly acclaimed Dinner Speech on "Lessons from Nansen."
In addition, 33 Sessions for regular oral presentations were held, organized according to the following general scheme:
    • Theme I - Living and working on the International Space Station
    • Theme II - Future of human spaceflight: Exploratory missions
    • Theme III - Access to space for the general public

Finally, Study Group Meetings on Psychology, Modelling, and Artificial Gravity were implemented as well.

"The level of representation of Physiological Sciences at this meeting was quite high. Most remarkable was the extraordinary attention paid to systemic and integrative physiology," resumes Prof. Hinghofer. "It is well recognized that the problem in physiological research today is the high level of reductionism. In fact, these are the questions that really matter if humans are to embark on long-term missions out of our biosphere. They will need a protective environment and reliable bioregenerative life support systems at their disposal, to keep them healthy and productive over long periods of time. This transdisciplinary aspect is what keeps space life scientists and spaceflight "doctors" going. Meetings like the one in Graz show how important it is to provide platforms that stimulate and foster scientific talks, and to find concepts that embrace an interdisciplinary approach."
During the symposium, a resolution was formulated with the approval of the International Astronautical Academy, urging Austrian decision-makers to support Austrian activities in Space Life Sciences more strongly: ". . . support for space medical research in Austria is deteriorating seriously with the consequence that the technical and scientific resources that have been built up over the years will crumble, and leave the country essentially unable to continue its dedicated activities. The Austrian government is therefore urged to reconsider its current research policy, particularly in view of the newly strengthened human space exploration initiative . . ."
To learn more about the numerous activities of this small-but-mighty institute (small only in spatial terms - it occupies a ground floor of 100 square meters), and to learn more details of IAP projects in national and international research, development, and education in the areas of human space flight and adaptational physiology, please visit the IAP website. A list of scientific publications can be found there as well.

Contact person
Prof. Helmut Hinghofer - Szalkay
Wormgasse 9/1
A-8010 Graz
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