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DCS in our genes? Research by Dawn Kernagis

Dawn Kernagis is a well-known figure in the diving world. A participant in the NASA project NEEMO XXI, she is a researcher in the field of biomedical sciences. She is particularly interested in human adaptation mechanisms in extreme environments. After a dozen years of cave diving, Kernagis began to ask herself: why were some of
Published: November 20, 2017 - 07:55
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 15:55
DCS in our genes? Research by Dawn Kernagis

Dawn Kernagis is a well-known figure in the diving world. A participant in the NASA project NEEMO XXI, she is a researcher in the field of biomedical sciences. She is particularly interested in human adaptation mechanisms in extreme environments.

Dawn Kernagis

After a dozen years of cave diving, Kernagis began to ask herself: why were some of her companions getting decompression sickness and some managing to avoid it?

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Kernagis, starting her research at Duke University, decided to look for the factor responsible for the body’s reaction resulting in symptoms characteristic of decompression sickness. It turned out that the answer lies in our genes.

He continues his research at the IHMC Institute in Florida. The search was able to narrow down to around 350 genes giving a strong ‘response’ to cellular stress caused by rapidly decreasing pressure. The aim of further work is to locate those few genes responsible exactly for the response in the form of decompression sickness.

But genetic research is only a narrow scope of a wider search. Kernagis wants to find the ‘golden mean’ for the human body functioning in extreme environments. The idea is how, through training, proper nutrition and regulation of metabolism, we can improve our adaptive abilities. The results may prove useful not only for divers, but also for pilots or astronauts.

It was because of her broad interests that Dawn Kernagis was qualified in 2016 for NASA’s NEEMO XXI mission. Living at a depth of around twenty metres for over two weeks, the young researcher was able to observe how the human body reacts to prolonged immersion.

The results of Kernagis’ research could prove groundbreaking for diving medicine, as well as for the safety of those working in extreme environments, including in space.

Source: sportdiver.com, Photo: IHMC Florida

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Gosia Harasimowicz
Żeglarka, Freelance Copywriter w włąsnej działalności Copywriter.
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