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Space Medicine: Benefits of low-gravity exercise

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  • Space research in San Diego

    Space research in San Diego

    Thursday, November 21 2013 6:15 PM EST2013-11-21 23:15:32 GMT
    High above the earth's protective atmosphere you'll find a never-ending dimension. A new frontier, both awe-inspiring and lethal. Exciting space research is happening right here in San Diego. 
    High above the earth's protective atmosphere you'll find a never-ending dimension. A new frontier, both awe-inspiring and lethal. Exciting space research is happening right here in San Diego. 

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - In last week's Earth 8 we introduced you to a UC San Diego professor finding solutions for astronauts living in space.

Now we take a closer look at how his research is benefiting injured athletes here on Earth. It's a moonwalk like you've never seen.

"We'll start you running on Mars and then the moon and then bring you back down to Earth," Dr. Brandon Macias said. "We're at 20 milliliters of mercury."

This is the future of rehabilitation for athletes like Stephanie Yano. You're about to find out what basketball and NASA have in common.

"When I first saw my orthopedic surgeon she said, you should really consider getting rid of athletics in your life," Stephanie said.

College basketball was getting the best of Stephanie's knee.

"I had to wait around three months for a cadaver femur bone," Stephanie said.

She had surgery, hoping to get back to basketball as soon as possible. Her secret weapon - the lbpp - lower body positive pressure.

This strange looking treadmill was originally conceived more than 20 years ago by Dr. Robert Whalen and UC San Diego's Dr. Alan Hargens while designing an exercise program for astronauts on the space station.

"I was really excited to me it looked like a brand new toy so then when I tried it out it was great didn't put any pressure on my knees so it helped a lot with my rehab," Stephanie said.

"Originally this concept was developed to simulate manned space flight and do bed rest studies," Dr. Macias said. "Essentially we have a shop vac and it's blowing pressure 50 milliliters of mercury, 40 milliliters of mercury and that's pushing on your body and that pressure differential lifts you up off the ground just like a piston in a car."

"As far as this machine I was able to get in there probably within two weeks after my surgery and that's when I was on crutches so it really helped my gate pattern," Stephanie said.

Now a senior at UC San Diego, Stephanie is back in the game thanks to NASA and locally inspired ingenuity.

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