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The working group for space medicine and extreme environments at the Charité – Faculty of Medicine Berlin investigates human physiology during exposure to environmental challenges under laboratory conditions as well as real world scenarios.
In July 2000, six working groups from both of the former faculties of human medicine at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin merged and founded the Center for Space Medicine Berlin (ZWMB: Zentrum für Weltraummedizin Berlin, ZWMB) in partnership with the German Aerospace Center (DLR: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt). The prior aim was, and still is the investigation of anatomical, physiological and psychological adaptations of man to weightlessness. This fundamental systemic research is carried out in cooperation with life scientists from space agencies in Europe (ESA), the United States (NASA), Russia (Roskosmos), Japan (NASDA) and China (CSA).
A further project of the Center for Space Medicine and Extreme Environments is offering a specialized curriculum to medical students, offering them a chance to enroll in a 3 week course involving advanced study of human physiology under extreme environments.
The current research performed by the group of Prof. Dr. H.-C. Gunga at the Institute of Physiology, is focused mainly on thermoregulation, electrolyte and water balance, oxygen transport capacity (red blood cell mass), capillarization of muscle tissue and the effects of stressors, such as isolation and spatial confinement, on the physical and mental capabilities of man in weightlessness.
In order to register and assess the stressors influencing the autonomic nervous system of astronauts on the ISS, special mobile systems were developed. Designed specifically for this purpose, these devices have also offered applications for research in terrestrial telemedicine. With a research facility including a climate chamber, a water immersion unit, physical endurance testing equipment, man-computer interface cognitive testing devices, an LBNP (lower body negative pressure unit) provided by NASA, as well as cutting-edge instrumentation for body composition analysis (BiA, Bod-pod, 3D-body scanner), the Institute of Physiology is well equipped for the design, implementation and execution of experiments in space and other extreme environments.
Applied Physiology – NATHAN ZUNTZ PROFESSORSHIP
The working group Applied Physiology mainly focusses on thermoregulation, salt-water regulation, oxygen transport capacity (red blood cell mass) of capillarisation of muscle tissue and especially on the effects of stressors like high work load, isolation and the mandatory stay in a confined place on human physical efficiency in weightlessness.