BEIJING, Feb. 8 -- Imagine working at a job which requires you to lie around all day, watch television, play video games, and surf the Internet. It seems like perfect work for a couch potato ¡ª until you find out that you must stay in bed 24 hours a day for 90 days! Suddenly, this job doesn't sound like much fun at all.
A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States has recruited volunteers to carry out forced bed rest, allowing doctors to study the effects of weightlessness on the human body. The bed rest recreates as closely as possible conditions which astronauts in space must endure.
Astronauts returning from space often have temporary physical problems. Many are prone to dizziness due to low blood pressure. A long trip in space can also lead to muscle weakness and decreased bone strength. All of these conditions are recreated in the bed rest study.
The studies are done at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Volunteers are under the constant supervision of doctors and other healthcare workers, and must follow strict guidelines. The volunteers' beds are tipped head-down at a slight angle of six degrees. The volunteers are not allowed out of bed even to go to the bathroom. Instead, they must use a bedpan.
Meals are brought at regular times, and naps are not permitted. At 6 a.m. volunteers are awakened, and lights are out at 10 p.m. They are supplied with televisions, videos, DVDs, and computers with Internet access. Family and friends may visit.
Volunteers must be non-smokers, between 25 and 55 years old, and in excellent health. Federal laws do not allow NASA to pay the volunteers, but they can be given up to US$17,000 for travel expenses and lost work time.
(Source: Shenzhen Daily/Agencies)