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NAMRU-Dayton Investigators Present Research Addressing Physiological Episodes in Tactical Aviation at AsMA

Story by Megan Mudersbach

Naval Medical Research Unit Dayton

DALLAS, Texas – Researchers from the Naval Medical Research Unit – Dayton (NAMRU-Dayton) shared current research efforts addressing the recent unexplained physiological episodes (UPEs) observed in tactical aircraft during a panel presentation at the 89th Aerospace Medicine Association (AsMA) scientific meeting, May 6-10.

Physiologic episodes are complicated phenomena in which a variety of interacting variables such as human physiology, aircraft systems and extreme environments may play contributing roles.

“The dynamic nature of the tactical aviation environment is challenging for the development of functional and reliable sensor technologies,” said Stephanie Warner, biomedical engineer, NAMRU-Dayton

Warner, along with NAMRU-Dayton teammates and colleagues from the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM) and the 711th Human Performance Wing (711 HPW) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base conducted independent Verification and Validation (V&V) tests on developing sensor technologies to ensure readiness for delivery to the fleet.

NAMRU-Dayton’s Sensors Laboratory replicates the aviation environment to evaluate the effectiveness of each sensor when exposed to the operational environment and identify specific areas for improvement. This unique lab has completed developmental and independent V&V testing on the Tactical Aircrew Physiological & Cognitive Monitoring System (TAPCOMS), a number of commercially available-off-the-shelf (COTS) gas sensors, and sensors to be worn by aviators and aircrew including Vigilox, which is also known as the Aircrew-Mounted Physiologic Sensor Suite 3.0 (AMPSS 3.0).

NAMRU-Dayton research physiologist, Megan Gallo, presented research examining how low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood may elicit symptoms similar to those associated with exposure to low oxygen levels, a situation that may occur in tactical aviators. By placing transcutaneous monitors on research participants’ forehead and chest, researchers measured carbon dioxide levels during exposure to ground level, 10,000 feet, and 18,000 feet in a hypobaric chamber.

“This study identified a high degree of individual variability of transcutaneous-measured carbon dioxide levels across participants,” said Gallo, “This is important because it acknowledges that people have individual physiologic responses to hyperoxia and hypobaria, and not all people fit within textbook parameters of what is considered normal, especially in such abnormal conditions.”

Findings suggest that transcutaneous monitors successfully trend levels of arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide during the ground level and moderate hypobaric exposures. According to Gallo, this warrants further investigation and development as a research, and possibly operational, tool.

This collaborative effort between military and industry researchers adds to the growing work on non-invasive, continuous monitoring of aircrew’s physiologic and metabolic status during flight operations.

In alignment with the Naval Aviation Enterprise, NAMRU-Dayton is committed to developing solutions to ensure the safety, health, and readiness of our naval aviators and aircrew.

AsMA is the international leader in aerospace medicine and human performance whose mission it is to apply and advance scientific knowledge to promote and enhance health, safety, and performance.

NAMRU-Dayton is a major Department of Defense (DoD) medical research command and home of the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory and the Environmental Health Effects Laboratory. NAMRU-Dayton conducts aerospace medical and environmental health effects research to enhance warfighter health, safety, performance, and readiness. We address identified Fleet needs and solutions ranging from basic knowledge to fielded technologies.

For more information visit us at www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmrc/Dayton and follow us @NavalMedicalResearchUnitDayton.

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