‘ I’m not fat. I’m big boned.’
If Eric Cartman was an Antarctic researcher, he’d probably love the peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (pQCT), a small CT-scanner to measure the bone density in legs and arms, so he could prove definitively his favorite statement about his size.
My first training for my year in Antarctica was at the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) in Cologne, and was dedicated to a research about the impact of an extended stay in Antarctica on bone health. Since you can’t really go for an easy walk when temperatures drop to -80 Celsius, people tend to be less active, which results in the loss of muscle and bone mass.
In my training in Cologne, I had a mini course that I fondly called ‘how-to-become-a-radiologist-in-2-days’ and learned how to take bone density measurements with the CT-scanner. The pQCT scanner will be shipped to Concordia Station and will be the first CT scanner on Antarctica! To knock me further of my feet, the team also arranged a special friend for me: Leonardo. The Leonardo Mechanograph Ground Reaction Force Plate, ‘Leonardo’ for short, is a modified balance board that measures balance and muscle strength. It will help me determine if our muscles will deteriorate just like in space. Better not, I didn’t see that disclaimer in the contract!
I also get a special handgrip to measure the grip force of the hands as well. Of course it’s just really cool to see how many kilos can be squeezed. I managed 165kg, that’s a serious handshake! The final part of this study is with the Nutriguard-M or BIA. It measures the impedance of the body, which tells us something about the composition of the body, quite some water in it! Unfortunately also the fatmass.. No big bone excuses for me!
Head researchers I met: Gabriele Armbrecht & Ulf Gast
Official research title: Prolonged stay in Antarctica provokes less physically activity and results in deterioration in neuromuscular function and bone loss.