How Much Can Human Bodies Take?

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), July 5, 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

How Much Can Human Bodies Take?

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

Inside a 12-foot-square room at the University of Oregon, it can be summer all year long.

But it also can be the equivalent of a winter day in International Falls, Minn., or a steamy day in a tropical jungle, or any day at the top of a mountain.

The $300,000 environmental chamber is the latest addition to a research program that's helping scientists better understand the body's reaction to all sorts of conditions and find better treatments for everything from sleep apnea to high blood pressure to acute altitude sickness.

"The human body is always being challenged by the environment it's exposed to," said John Halliwill, a professor of human physiology at the UO. "Using this chamber, we're going to be able to really explore the human condition."

The chamber is just the most recent evidence that the UO's department of human physiology, all but given up for dead as little as 10 years ago, not only has a heartbeat but is thriving. It has attracted a cadre of award-winning young researchers, has almost $4 million in research grants and has seen its enrollment leap from about 50 to more than 400.

Today, its researchers are exploring how musicians learn the precise finger movements needed to play a string instrument, looking for new ways to help stroke victims regain mobility, measuring the effects of concussion and how soon an injured person should return to sports or other activities, researching the potential of exercise to treat high blood pressure and more.

"The rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated," said professor Gary Klug, the department head.

The new environmental chamber opens up even more opportunities for advanced research. Funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense and a private gift, the chamber allows researchers to simulate altitudes up to 18,000 feet and precisely control temperature and humidity in a wide range.

That allows scientists to, for example, study the neurotransmitters involved in blood flow to the skin during heat stress and perhaps come up with ways to help the body better tolerate exercise and other activity in hot, moist climates. It also can let researchers look at whether athletes get any advantage from sleeping in a low-oxygen environment equivalent to being at high altitude.

Those things are difficult to study when you have to depend on weather and geography to provide the laboratory environment.

"It's hard to get weather on demand," Halliwill said during a recent demonstration of the chamber. "Instead of taking the lab to the mountain, we have brought the mountain to the lab."

UO researchers are still tweaking the chamber but expect to begin studies and collect data soon. They currently have a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study sleep apnea, a disorder in which a sleeping person stops breathing for brief periods repeatedly during the night.

The room is large enough to house a treadmill or other exercise equipment to study the effect of exercise and oxygen levels on hypertension and how lack of oxygen affects mountain climbers.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

How Much Can Human Bodies Take?


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?