AIM was born from the idea of two Master students from Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-SUPAERO) of Toulouse, France: Nicolò Bernardini (who got a Bachelor in Aerospace Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, Italy) and Olivia Drayson (who graduated from Oxford with a degree in Physics). The whole project developed around a first, fundamental question: what are the effects of microgravity conditions on the blood flow in the cardiovascular system of astronauts?
Artery in Microgravity
|University||ISAE-SUPAERO, Politecnico di Torino|
|Endorsing professor||Prof. Umberto Morbiducci|
|Team||Nicolo Bernardini, Olivia Drayson, Luca Cerquetani, Alessandro Cipoletta, Federico Falcone, Michele Genoni, Federica Vagnone, Stefano Gabetti and Elena Torta|
Many experiments on this topic have already been run, but none of them included a mechanical model of the cardiovascular system capable of reproducing the blood flow in two coronary arteries (one presenting a stenosis and one treated with a stent) in a long lasting microgravity environment. Moreover, building such a model and installing it into the International Space Station for four months will not only contribute to the understanding of astronauts’ health issues. In fact, medical engineering research will benefit from it as well, since the experiment will also allow investigating the collateral effects of a stent on the blood flow, both in terms of flow dynamics and metal ions release (as a consequence of radiations). The experiment will also be the first mechanical model installed on the ISS in the ICE Cubes facility.
The model is made of a pump, which simulates the behaviour of the heart, and of pressure valves and silicon vessels, which will reproduce both a stenotic coronary artery and a coronary artery treated with a stent. The model also includes the liquid which will mimic the blood flow, a pressurised reservoir, sensors for the pressure, mass flow and pH measurements and a motherboard, which will ensure the functioning of the system and its safety, and will allow interfacing with the ISS. Finally, a fluid tracer and a camera are added to monitor wall movement and flow dynamics. The purpose of the experiment is to understand how microgravity affects blood flow in a stenotic coronary artery and how the presence of a stent affects blood flow in microgravity.
The AIM team expanded from the original two co-founders to include five Master’s students in Aerospace Engineering from ISAE-SUPAERO (Luca Cerquetani, Alessandro Cipoletta, Federico Falcone, Michele Genoni and Federica Vagnone) and a PhD (Stefano Gabetti) and a Master’s student (Elena Torta) in the field of Biomedical Engineering from Politecnico di Torino. Each member of the team brings his knowledge and field of expertise to actively contribute to the different aspects of the project activity: development of the cardiovascular model, study of the scientific background, designing and manufacturing of the ICE Cube, funding and sponsorship.
Federica, Stefano and Elena are part of the Scientific Team together with Olivia (which also deals with the management and the sponsorship of the project, together with Nicolò and Federica). Their tasks mainly include the definition of the experiment characteristics (scientific background, system definition and numerical model creation, choice of liquid, materials and sensors, experiment routine). Their work is guided and supervised by Professor Morbiducci, from Politecnico di Torino.
Federico and Alessandro form the Mechanical Team, which is in charge of designing, simulating and manufacturing the ICE Cube structure and assembling of the different components that form the experiment. Finally, Michele and Luca form the Electronics Team, whose task is the definition of the electronics architecture of the system and the programming of the whole functioning of the experiment through a proper interaction of the motherboard, pump, sensors and the ISS and ICE Cubes facility interface. Professors Matthieu Compin and Jean-Jacques Favier, from ISAE-SUPAERO, supervise the work of these two Teams.
To learn more about this exciting experiment, visit the team's website.