Last April 2018, the “MyotonPRO” Digital Palpation Device was successfully launched to the ISS for objective monitoring of astronauts’ muscle health and physical condition. The research program funded by ESA, DLR and UK Space Agency is called “Myotones – Muscle Tone in Space”.
The study makes a precedent and sets a new important milestone in space medicine and muscle physiology in general, because it is the first time the measurement of muscle tone became technically possible in space. Moreover the measurement procedure is painless, quick and easy. The research helps scientists better to understand the dynamics of muscle adaptation or maintenance of it’s physical condition during 120 to 180 days in micro-gravity under a routine training program.
A German astronaut and geophysicist, Alexander Gerst, who currently holds the German record of subsequently being in space – 362 days –, made a video on the International Space Station about the importance of “MyotonPRO” device while being on a mission.
According to Alexander Gerst, “MyotonPRO” is a crucial device to test muscle adaptation in space during normal daily routine and regular training. Staying fit throughout the mission, allows astronauts to return to normal life on Earth as smoothly as possible. “MyotonPRO allows us to measure muscle tone objectively and provides scientists at Charité University Berlin with the data showing how our muscles are changing during and after our time on the International Space Station.”
The device registers a muscle oscillation and calculates various parameters, such as muscle tone, stiffness and elasticity. Ultrasound examinations provide additional information about muscles.
“Having a more efficient, monitored fitness program not only helps us astronauts, but also anyone who is keen to get back on their feet after an injury, or athletes who are looking to go that extra mile,” explains Gerst and adds: “So whether you are on the International Space Station or on Earth, it is important to stay fit!”
The Myotones project is funded by the European Space Agency – ESA, German Aerospace Center – DLR and the UK Space Agency. The project involves scientific collaboration between researchers at the Charité University in Berlin, DLR in Cologne, Germany, the University of Southampton, UK, and Institute of Biomechanics and Orthopaedics, Cologne, Germany.