UH prof, U.S. Navy join to straighten out the ‘bends’

To curtail a condition divers and pilots experience in high-pressure environments, the U.S. Navy has enlisted the help of UH biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering assistant professor Kirill Larin.

The U.S. Navy granted Larin $400,000 through the Office of Naval Research to combat decompression sickness, which affects divers and airplane pilots with various symptoms ranging from joint pain to seizures, strokes and comas arising from changes in pressure from air or water. The illness, also known as "the bends," can be deadly in some cases.

"Most of the time decompression sickness isn’t addressed until the person starts showing clinical symptoms," Larin said in a release.

The grant will be used toward developing a non-invasive device to help make an earlier diagnosis of the disease.

"It would be better, of course, to treat the symptoms before they appear," Larin said in a release. "That would allow individuals to take the appropriate medical actions that reduce the side effects of decompression sickness."

UT Health Science Center professor Bruce Butler is also contributing to the research by helping locate the presence of nitrogen, which inhibits blood circulation and can harm tissue. The device, similar to an ultrasound, would be the first non-invasive machine to detect symptoms.

"A patient with decompression sickness would recover more quickly and experience less discomfort," Larin said.

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