Watch: Nottingham space travel study gets people to lie in bed for three days

Video: Behind the scenes of the study with the ‘pillownauhts’.

A Nottingham science experiment is testing the effects of space to travel to Mars – by getting volunteers to lie in bed for three days.

The University of Nottingham experiment is examining the effect of weightlessness on the human body.

Ten healthy men have been recruited to the study, being carried out at the university’s medical school at the Queen’s Medical Centre.

Each participant, nicknamed a ‘pillownauht’, has to lie down for three days non-stop at a slight head-down angle and undergo checks on their muscles, pancreas and liver function.

Many astronauts come back to Earth from space showing signs of pre-diabetes because weightlessness can lead to insulin resistance.

This is because the muscles and liver can’t absorb glucose to help regulate blood sugar levels.

The Nottingham study is specifically aiming to find out how quickly people develop insulin resistance from prolonged bed rest, and what causes it.

Mars
The study is hoping to find out more about the effects on the human body of long-distance space travel, making a mission to Mars more likely. (Photo: ESA CC BY-SA 3.0)

Professor of Metabolic Physiology, Ian Macdonald, said: “There is a big push at the moment for a manned mission to Mars – a journey that would take as long as nine months with huge implications for the fitness of the astronauts.

“Multiple scientific groups across NASA, the UK Space Agency and ESA, are working on many aspects of this physical deterioration in zero gravity and we hope our contribution to this will be significant and possibly lead to further studies about insulin resistance over a longer time period.”

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