Immersion is a useful tool for studying fluid-volume homeostasis. Natriuretic peptides play a vital role in renal, humoral, and cardiovascular regulation under changing environmental conditions. We hypothesized that dry immersion would rapidly induce a new steady state for water and sodium metabolism, and that serum NT-proBNP levels, a proxy measure for brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), would decrease during long-term dry immersion and increase during recovery. Eight healthy young men were studied before, during, and after 7 days of dry immersion. Body weight, water balance, and plasma volume changes were evaluated. Plasma and serum samples were analyzed for active renin, NT-proBNP, aldosterone, electrolytes, osmolality, total protein, and creatinine. Urine samples were analyzed to determine levels of electrolytes, osmolality, creatinine, and free cortisol. A stand test was performed before and after dry immersion to evaluate cardiovascular deconditioning. Long-term dry immersion induced acute changes in water and sodium homeostasis on day 1, followed by a new steady state. Plasma volume decreased significantly during dry immersion. The serum levels of NT-proBNP increased significantly in recovery (10 ± 3 ng/L before dry immersion vs. 26 ± 5 ng/L on the fourth recovery day). Heart rate in the standing position was significantly greater after immersion. Results suggest that chronic dry immersion rapidly induced a new level of water-electrolyte homeostasis. The increase in NT-proBNP levels during the recovery period may be related to greater cardiac work and might reflect the degree of cardiovascular deconditioning.
Dry immersion, which is a ground-based model of prolonged conditions of microgravity, is widely used in Russia but is less well known elsewhere. Dry immersion involves immersing the subject in thermoneutral water covered with an elastic waterproof fabric. As a result, the immersed subject, who is freely suspended in the water mass, remains dry. For a relatively short duration, the model can faithfully reproduce most physiological effects of actual microgravity, including centralization of body fluids, support unloading, and hypokinesia. Unlike bed rest, dry immersion provides a unique opportunity to study the physiological effects of the lack of a supporting structure for the body (a phenomenon we call supportlessness). In this review, we attempt to provide a detailed description of dry immersion. The main sections of the paper discuss the changes induced by long-term dry immersion in the neuromuscular and sensorimotor systems, fluid-electrolyte regulation, the cardiovascular system, metabolism, blood and immunity, respiration, and thermoregulation. The long-term effects of dry immersion are compared with those of bed rest and actual space flight. The actual and potential uses of dry immersion are discussed in the context of fundamental studies and applications for medical support during space flight and terrestrial health care.
Actual and simulated microgravity induces hypovolemia and cardiovascular deconditioning, associated with vascular dysfunction. We hypothesized that vasoconstriction of skin microcirculatory bed should be altered following 7 days of simulated microgravity in order to maintain cardiovascular homeostasis during active standing. Eight healthy men were studied before and after 7 days of simulated microgravity modeled by dry immersion (DI). Changes of plasma volume and orthostatic tolerance were evaluated. Calf skin blood flow (laser-Doppler flowmetry), ECG and blood pressure signal during a 10-min stand test were recorded, and skin vascular resistance, central hemodynamics, baroreflex sensitivity and heart rate variability were estimated. After DI we observed increased calf skin vascular resistance in the standing position (12.0 ± 1.0 AU-after- vs. 6.8 ± 1.4 AU-before), while supine it was unchanged. Cardiovascular deconditioning was confirmed by greater tachycardia on standing and by hypovolemia (-16 ± 3% at day 7 of DI). Total peripheral resistance and indices of cardiovascular autonomic control were not modified. In conclusion, unchanged autonomic control and total peripheral resistance suggest that increased skin vasoconstriction to standing involves rather local mechanisms-as venoarteriolar reflex-and might compensate insufficient vasoconstriction of other vascular beds.
A sedentary lifestyle has adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, including impaired endothelial functions. Subjecting healthy men to 7 days of dry immersion (DI) presented a unique opportunity to analyze the specific effects of enhanced inactivity on the endothelium. We investigated endothelial properties before, during, and after 7 days of DI involving eight subjects. Microcirculatory functions were assessed with laser Doppler in the skin of the calf. We studied basal blood flow and endothelium-dependent and -independent vasodilation. We also measured plasma levels of microparticles, a sign of cellular dysfunction, and soluble endothelial factors, reflecting the endothelial state. Basal flow and endothelium-dependent vasodilation were reduced by DI (22 + or - 4 vs. 15 + or - 2 arbitrary units and 29 + or - 6% vs. 12 + or - 6%, respectively, P < 0.05), and this was accompanied by an increase in circulating endothelial microparticles (EMPs), which was significant on day 3 (42 + or - 8 vs. 65 + or - 10 EMPs/microl, P < 0.05), whereas microparticles from other cell origins remained unchanged. Plasma soluble VEGF decreased significantly during DI, whereas VEGF receptor 1 and soluble CD62E were unchanged, indicating that the increase in EMPs was associated with a change in antiapoptotic tone rather than endothelial activation. Our study showed that extreme physical inactivity in humans induced by 7 days of DI causes microvascular impairment with a disturbance of endothelial functions, associated with a selective increase in EMPs. Microcirculatory endothelial dysfunction might contribute to cardiovascular deconditioning as well as to hypodynamia-associated pathologies. In conclusion, the endothelium should be the focus of special care in situations of acute limitation of physical activity.
The most accepted animal model for simulation of the physiological and morphological consequences of microgravity on the cardiovascular system is one of head-down hindlimb unloading. Experimental conditions surrounding this model include not only head-down tilting of rats, but also social and restraint stresses that have their own influences on cardiovascular system function. Here, we studied levels of spontaneous locomotor activity, blood pressure, and heart rate during 14 days under the following experimental conditions: cage control, social isolation in standard rat housing, social isolation in special cages for hindlimb unloading, horizontal attachment (restraint), and head-down hindlimb unloading. General activity and hemodynamic parameters were continuously monitored in conscious rats by telemetry. Heart rate and blood pressure were both evaluated during treadmill running to reveal cardiovascular deconditioning development as a result of unloading. The main findings of our work are that: social isolation and restraint induced persistent physical inactivity, while unloading in rats resulted in initial inactivity followed by normalization and increased locomotion after one week. Moreover, 14 days of hindlimb unloading showed significant elevation of blood pressure and slight elevation of heart rate. Hemodynamic changes in isolated and restrained rats largely reproduced the trends observed during unloading. Finally, we detected no augmentation of tachycardia during moderate exercise in rats after 14 days of unloading. Thus, we concluded that both social isolation and restraint, as an integral part of the model conditions, contribute essentially to cardiovascular reactions during head-down hindlimb unloading, compared to the little changes in the hydrostatic gradient.
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