Bone mass machine set to come down to Earth soon

Updated: 2016-11-07 08:04

By Ju Chuanjiang and Zhao Ruixue in Jinan(China Daily)

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A handheld device designed to help astronauts counter loss of bone mass in microgravity environments will soon be available to the general public online, according to the developer.

"The functions of the device we will sell online will be the same as those used by astronauts in space right now," said Ma Yan, deputy general manager of Shandong Huayu Aerospace Science Co, which is owned by the Shandong Institute of Aerospace Electronics Technology with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp in Yantai, Shandong province.

After more than 10 years of development, the instrument was tested for 13 days by astronauts aboard on the Shenzhou IX spacecraft in 2012.

After more upgrades, it is currently being used by two astronauts during a month-long mission aboard Tiangong II.

Detailed data about the effects of the instrument cannot be released for reasons of confidentiality, but Ma said the data obtained indicated that the astronauts aboard Shenzhou IX who used the instrument suffered lower levels of bone mass loss than those who didn't.

Bone mass loss is a major problem that astronauts must overcome during extended stays in space.

Microgravity environments induce higher levels of bone resorption - the process by which bone tissue breaks down and releases the minerals inside - and decreased blood supply to the bones which results in loss of mass.

During space flight, astronauts usually protect their bones by eating correctly and exercising hard.

Ma said the instrument is used like a massage device. Based on theories associated with traditional Chinese medicine, it taps acupuncture points in the legs to stimulate blood circulation and enhance bone density.

"Astronauts can choose vibrations with different frequencies, timing and strength," Ma said, adding that the instrument has great market potential on Earth. The appearance and size of the device will be changed to make it more visually appealing and easier to carry.

His company plans to put the device on sale via a crowdfunding platform, and anyone who donates 1,399 yuan ($207) will receive one.

Liu Qingchun, a physician at Laixi People Hospital in Shandong province, said the device will help to protect people from a hidden danger.

"For most people, bone loss begins at about age 35. However, most people don't realize that because there are no obvious symptoms at the beginning," he said.

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 Bone mass machine set to come down to Earth soon

A device similar to the one designed to help astronauts counter loss of bone mass.Huayu Aerospace Science Co

(China Daily 11/07/2016 page6)