“AIM” (Artery in Microgravity) is a project conceived, designed, built and tested by students from ISAE-SUPAERO and Politecnico di Torino. AIM comes from the first team selected by ESA Academy to participate in the Orbit Your Thesis! program, and it is also the first complete payload built by ISAE-SUPAERO and Politecnico di Torino to fly to the International Space Station.
Vascular diseases involve a gradual widening or narrowing of vessels, influencing the blood flow dynamics and the mechanical properties of the artery walls. In such cases, changes in the shape of blood vessels are associated with a high risk of vascular diseases, in particular thrombus (blood clot) formation and vessel rupture. If left untreated, rupture of bubbles on weak spots of a blood vessel (aneurysm) can occur, potentially leading to severe bleeding and, ultimately, death.
These pathologies are analysed by studying the characteristics and parameters of blood circulation, as well as the deformations and movements of the walls induced by fluid flow.
The goal of “AIM” is to investigate how the lack of gravity in the space environment impacts the biomechanics in the arteries and in particular coronary artery disease treatment with implants of a stent (small metal mesh tube device). This type of experiment setup has not been tested before and focuses on the assessment of cardiovascular mechanics in space compared to terrestrial conditions, where gravity plays an important role in how the vascular system behaves. The experiment will be hosted inside the ICE Cubes facility on board the ISS and will visualise the flow of blood-like fluid in both diseased and surgically repaired (stented) artery models in the absence of gravity. In addition, the effect of gravity on the performance of endovascular medical devices will be analysed.
About Orbit Your Thesis! (OYT)
OYT! is an ESA educational project part of the ESA Academy programme for university students to get hands-on experience of the full life cycle of a real space project, and so be better prepared and qualified for a career in the European space sector.
The programme is carried out in close cooperation with European universities and intends to complement higher education for university students. While learning through hands-on learning, they can also contribute to scientific and technological progress in their specific areas.
With support from Space Applications Services, students receive the knowledge and expertise, as well as technical capabilities, necessary to materialize their project to be sent to the ISS.
Image credits: ESA / Team AIM (ISAE-SUPAERO & Politecnico di Torino)
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