Men to get EUR 12,000 to lie in bed for two months

Ljubljana, 2 June - The Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) is offering EUR 12,000 gross for men aged 18-45 to lie in bed for 60 days to take part in a study aimed at preventing the impacts of weightlessness in space. The offer to be a part of the first such bed rest study in Slovenia has attracted quite a lot of attention and interest.

Planica The Laboratory for Gravitational Physiology at the Planica Nordic Centre, where the bed rest study will take place. Photo: Katja Bidovec and Arne Hodalič File photo

The Laboratory for Gravitational Physiology at the Planica Nordic Centre, where the bed rest study will take place.
Photo: Katja Bidovec and Arne Hodalič
File photo

The call for applications will be open until mid-June, but the offer has already attracted more than enough men interested in participation, IJS researcher Igor Mekjavić said earlier this week, as more than 200 men signed up in the first three days.

The job ad was leaked and made public a bit too soon, but the information it provided was true, Mekjavić told the STA. The research institute is looking for men aged 18-45 who weigh less than 95 kilograms and are in good health. The study, including pre- and post-examinations, will take place between September and December, 90 days in total.

Even though the pay of EUR 12,000 gross may seem a lot initially, it is actually the minimum wage taking into account the hourly rate, Mekjavić said. As such, the money is not a bait to lure in the participants but a very realistic figure, he added.

The participants will be required to stay in bed or participate in other ways 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 90 straight days, and during the bed rest period this will not include getting up for bathroom breaks, bathing or meals, which means they will work for 2,160 hours or more.

Titled The Effect of Vibration Training during Hypoxic Inactivity, the study will aim to compare and evaluate different exercise strategies for life in spacecraft, which could prevent bone and muscle loss and changes in the cardiovascular system of astronauts, the main problems they face during life in space.

Moreover, led by Mekjavić, researchers will be focusing on potential vision changes, as vision deterioration is common in veteran astronauts. The results of the study will not only benefit astronauts but will also help improve treatments for health conditions on Earth, Mekjavić told the STA.

The IJS is expected to pick 12 participants for the first ever bed rest study in Slovenia, 24.ur portal reported earlier this week. The "pillownauts", as they have been dubbed by the European Space Agency (ESA), which funds the research, will be placed in a position that mimics the position of astronauts in space or zero-gravity spaces.

The study will take place at the Planica Nordic Centre, which is not only a winter sports centre but also a venue that has a unique capacity to research several space-related areas, including hypoxemia, a shortage of oxygen supply in blood.

The Laboratory for Gravitational Physiology was inaugurated there in 2021 in cooperation with the ESA, the ministries of science and the economy and the IJS. It includes the human centrifuge facility, which will feature in the study.

Everyone who applies will learn the details of the bed rest study and undergo intensive examinations. During and after the study rehabilitation will be provided and several follow up examinations will take place in the two years following the study to make sure the participants return to their pre-study levels.

Based on past experience, no health consequences are expected since all participants in such studies have recuperated very quickly so far, Mekjavić said.

The research protocol, which still needs to be approved by the Health Ministry's Medical Ethics Committee, is identical to the relevant protocols in France and Germany and was drawn up by an ESA expert group.