Boston, MA (PressExposure) April 07, 2011 -- Christopher J. Morris, PhD, of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, is one of four scientists selected by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) for a postdoctoral fellowship.
"NSBRI has added some of the brightest young scientists the United States has to offer. These new fellows will have a role in the Institute's efforts to protect astronaut health and to improve health care on Earth," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Sutton, NSBRI director.
The two-year program offers fellows the opportunity to manage their own space-related biomedical research project while continuing to learn from an experienced faculty mentor. Dr. Morris is working with mentor Frank A.J.L. Scheer, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and at the Division of Sleep Medicine at BWH, to look at the effects of sudden shifts in sleep/wake patterns (slam shifts), typical for astronauts, on the cardiovascular system.
"The great benefit of the work we're doing is that it could have implications for both astronauts and members of the general public," said Dr. Morris. "The results of this study may furthermore shed light on the physiological mechanisms underlying the increased risk for the development of cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes in shift workers," added Dr. Scheer.
Dr. Morris, under highly controlled laboratory conditions, will measure the response of various cardiovascular parameters to three consecutive periods of simulated day and night work. Such an experimental design will enable Dr. Morris to determine the direct effect of a single simulated slam shift on cardiovascular indices. Moreover, the experiment will determine if the immediate effect of a single slam shift on cardiovascular measures are sustained, exacerbated or removed following repeated exposures to slam shift work. Dr. Morris will compare cardiovascular responses in day workers and night shift workers to determine if the latter group is more or less susceptible to cardiovascular changes induced by slam shifts. The overall research project is funded by a research grant from the National Institutes of Health to Dr. Scheer.
Funded by NASA, NSBRI studies the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight with peer-reviewed science, technology and education projects at more than 60 institutions across the United States.
Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 793-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery network. BWH is the home of the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, the most advanced center of its kind. BWH is committed to excellence in patient care with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery. The BWH medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in quality improvement and patient safety initiatives and its dedication to educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, involving more than 900 physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by more than $ 537 M in funding. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative. For more information about BWH, please visit Brigham and Women's Hospital.