PHD Scientist Selected for Research Fellowship to Better Understand Heart Function in Space
03/16/2007

DALLAS – Shigeki Shibata, M.D., PhD, a researcher at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (IEEM) at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, has been selected for a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship to further pursue his research into how the heart and cardiovascular system function in space. The research is considered a critical component to NASA's plans for extended trips into space, including manned missions to Mars.

The two-year fellowship is being funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). Dr. Shibata, a research fellow at the IEEM and at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, was one of only three researchers in the United States to receive the NSBRI fellowship.

“This is a great honor, and I'm very excited about continuing my work to better understand the physiological effects of space flight,” Dr. Shibata said. “Through this research we hope to advance our understanding of the effect of prolonged deconditioning on the heart, which will help not only in future space missions but also increase our understanding of similar medical conditions involving deconditioning, such as aging, here on Earth.”

An author on more than 50 research papers and scientific abstracts during the last three years, Dr. Shibata's main area of research is cardiovascular deconditioning after microgravity. Because of the atrophy and stiffening of the heart muscle and blood vessels that accompanies such deconditioning, the amount of time astronauts can spend in space may be limited. Dr. Shibata and other researchers are also investigating what kinds of exercise might slow cardiovascular deconditioning.

Dr. Shibata's work is being conducted under the tutelage of Benjamin D. Levine, M.D., director of the IEEM at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Dr. Shibata is an outstanding young physician-scientist who is well-deserving of this recognition,” said Dr. Levine, who holds the S. Finley Ewing Jr. Chair for Wellness at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and the Harry S. Moss Heart Chair in Exercise and Environmental Medicine. “His research will continue the Institute's work to learn more about the effects of microgravity and prolonged deconditioning on humans and how to apply that knowledge to Earth and the care of our aging population as well as patients with conditions like fainting disorders and other circulatory problems.”

Dr. Shibata will receive $40,000 per year and become a member of one of NSBRI's science and technology teams. Fellows also attend a week-long summer institute at the NASA Johnson Space Center learning about its research facilities and program.

After graduating from the University of Niigata School of Medicine (Niigata, Japan) in 1998, Dr. Shibata completed his internal medicine residency at Tachikawa Hospital (Niigata, Japan) in 2000, then completed anesthesiology fellowships at Nihon University Surugadai Hospital (Tokyo, Japan) in 2002 and Nihon University Itabashi Hospital (Tokyo) in 2005. He joined the IEEM in 2005.

About the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine
The Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (IEEM) was founded as a joint program between Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Its mission is to promote basic and clinical research, education and clinical practice in defining the limits to human functional capacity in health and disease, with the objective of improving the quality of life for human beings of all ages. The IEEM includes eight major laboratories tightly integrated and organized intellectually along the "oxygen cascade" – the path that oxygen must follow through the body from the external environment through the lungs, heart and skeletal muscle to perform physical activity. The IEEM is among the only research centers in the world that fosters the fusion of basic science and clinical medicine in a program designed specifically to study human physiology.

About Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas
Established in 1966, PHD is the flagship hospital of Presbyterian Healthcare System, a member of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system. PHD is a recognized clinical program leader, providing technologically advanced care to patients. The 866-bed facility has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information about PHD, visit www.texashealth.org/phd.

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health care delivery systems in the United States and the largest in North Texas in terms of patients served. THR controls 13 affiliated hospitals and a medical research organization, and is a corporate member or partner in seven additional hospitals and surgery centers. THR’s family of hospitals includes Harris Methodist Hospitals, Arlington Memorial Hospital and Presbyterian Healthcare System.  For more information about Texas Health Resources, visit http://www.texashealth.org/.