Is C language a must for civilians

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A particularly intensely supervised group in underwater medicine are divers who undergo medical and psychological examinations at the Naval Medical Institute of the Navy (SMIM) every year. For this purpose, the institute has pressure chambers that are unique in Germany in this form. Here the pressure can be simulated as it exists at a sea depth of up to 200 meters.

Unique in Germany

One of the chambers is even filled with water, so that a diver with his device can be put into a situation that exists far below the surface of the water. If you suspect that the diving device is defective or no longer suitable for a certain depth, you can safely check this here. With such a check in the sea, the diver's life would be at risk if there was an actual defect.

In these pressure chambers, all divers are examined to see how well they are coping with the pressure equalization. Another finding of the systematic investigations to improve medical diving safety is that the oxygen attacks the genetic information, the DNA, in some cells when diving. However, the body adapts to this load, so that this effect decreases significantly after a few days. After a vacation, the adjustment process starts all over again. Research results of the SMIM help to set up the work plan in such a way that this is taken into account.

Oxygen under pressure as a remedy

At the same time, the oxygen under excess pressure offers the possibility of treating certain diseases. Much more oxygen is dissolved in the blood under overpressure than under normal pressure. In addition to the tried and tested treatment of diving accidents, hyperbaric oxygen can also support healing processes in tissue that is no longer adequately supplied with blood.

It is currently suspected that the supply of oxygen in the pressure chamber could have a beneficial effect on certain rheumatic diseases. The noble gas radon also shows positive effects here. In the research carried out by the SMIM together with the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, L├╝beck campus, the researchers examine the suspected effect of pressurized oxygen on diseases of the rheumatic type. In this way, a primarily military facility can come to beneficial medical discoveries for all of us.

Special competencies

The example shows that there are indeed research topics that require the particular competence of experts who specialize in shipping. It is therefore processed in the Naval Medical Institute of the Navy (SMIM), whose research department is also part of the Christian-Albrechts-Universit├Ąt zu Kiel.

Professor Andreas Koch, the scientific director of the facility, makes it clear that the tasks of the SMIM are largely comparable to a professional association. There is occupational medical care for the marines, including aptitude test, as well as security monitoring and the creation of special operating regulations and treatment in the event of diving medical incidents. Medical on-board personnel are also specially trained here.

Various federal military facilities are available to the SMIM for research. Above all, there is of course the possibility of carrying out investigations directly at sea and under real conditions if necessary.

How does seasickness come about?

The life raft drifts up and down in huge waves. Some passengers feel very bad, others brave the seasickness. This is also an example from an SMIM research project. Fortunately, the life raft is not floating on the high seas but in a marine training swimming pool in Neustadt / Holstein. It is uncomfortable, but not dangerous, for the passenger of a cruise ship to get seasick or to prevent nausea with medication, but to become very tired due to the side effects of the travel tablets. Both would be very problematic for the crew of a warship or submarine. All crew members must be fully operational, especially when deployed in a storm.

The researchers therefore first have to understand how nausea, dizziness or headache break out in seasickness or other so-called kinetoses. Put simply, stress arises when the body is moved by driving, air or ship movements, but the eye does not actively perceive this, for example because the workplace is below deck or the person concerned is sitting behind the driver. It is noteworthy that the driver of the vehicle rarely falls ill.

One of the effects of stress is that histamine, a hormone that makes the stomach vomit, is released. The release of histamine can be inhibited by drugs that are otherwise used as antiallergic drugs or sleeping pills. So the question to the researchers is how the crew can remain capable of action during an operation.

There are now suspicions that the otherwise largely harmless vitamin C could inhibit histamine. This is shown by the experiments in the swimming pool. However, whether vitamin C would be approved as a drug for this purpose would have to show costly clinical studies, which because of the high costs are not attractive for the pharmaceutical industry and cannot be financed for a federal research institution. Perhaps the research will come to a conclusion that will help the Navy as well as any civilian traveler.

The SMIM is the central medical facility of the Navy and makes its marine medical competence primarily available to the fleet and the Navy as a whole. In diving medicine, services are also provided for the entire Bundeswehr. Research focuses on diving and hyperbaric medicine, as well as special aspects of shipping medicine. As the Maritime Medicine Section, the SMIM cooperates closely with the University of Kiel.