Dr. Moon Awarded $2M for Diving Studies

Richard E. Moon, MD, CM, MSc, FRCP, FACP, FCCPDuke Anesthesiology’s Richard Moon, MD, CM, MSc, FRCP(C), FACP, FCCP, has been awarded more than $2 million in funding for diving studies from branches of the United States Navy.

The Office of Naval Research has awarded Moon a three-year, $1,209,589 grant for his project, “Integrated Diaphragmatic Function, Chemosensitivity, Erythrocyte Gas Transport and Endurance in Exercising Divers.”

Moon’s study will determine (1) the effectiveness of breathing carbon monoxide on diaphragm training (his research team has previously shown that low dose carbon monoxide upregulates mitochondrial biogenesis in humans); (2) whether carbon monoxide-enhanced diaphragm training increases endurance in divers during underwater exercise; (3) the degree to which oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange is determined by gas channels in human red blood cells.

Additionally, the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has awarded Moon, medical director of Duke’s Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Environmental Physiology, an $850,502 contract for his project, “Perfluoromethane to Reduce Decompression Sickness after Heliox Dives.” This contract will fund studies in pigs to determine whether perfluoromethane breathing during decompression from a dive reduces decompression sickness.

Stacey HiltonDr. Moon Awarded $2M for Diving Studies
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Dr. Gasier Awarded Naval Research Grant

Heath Gasier, PhDThe Office of Naval Research has awarded Duke Anesthesiology’s Heath Gasier, PhD, a $227,954 grant to study the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on skeletal muscle calcium regulation and mitochondrial function.

Oxidant production increases with strenuous muscle contractions and has been reported to cause or contribute to fatigue. It is, therefore, probable that intramuscular oxidant production is increased during prolonged and repeated HBO2 exposures and results in damage to organelles and regulatory proteins involved in muscle contraction and bioenergetics.

This research will help Gasier determine the impact of skeletal muscle oxidant production on calcium regulation and mitochondrial function in mice exposed to HBO2, ultimately identifying new approaches for preventing oxygen toxicity and optimizing performance in divers.

In this study, he will implement an innovative combination of biological techniques. His approach allows for real time measurement of total and mitochondrial superoxide and calcium levels, and mitochondrial membrane potential in live muscle fibers ex vivo. Combined with immunoblotting and immunofluorescence, he aims to identify the potential source of muscle fatigue. Gasier’s central hypothesis is that prolonged and repeated HBO2 exposures increase oxidation of RyR1 and STIM1 that increases intracellular and mitochondrial calcium uptake, resulting in impaired mitochondrial function. This hypothesis is based on the synthesis of work by others.

Gasier’s work is expected to discover whether critical targets involved in muscle contraction are influenced by HBO2. Results of this research will have an important and positive impact because they will offer a strong scientific framework for testing specific drugs or antioxidants on muscle and aerobic exercise performance after HBO2.

Stacey HiltonDr. Gasier Awarded Naval Research Grant
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Dr. Moon Named Diver of the Year

Richard E. Moon, MD, CM, MSc, FRCP, FACP, FCCPThe Divers Alert Network (DAN) has named Duke Anesthesiology’s Richard Moon, MD, CM, MSc, FRCP(C), FACP, FCCP, the 2021 DAN Rolex Diver of the Year.

Moon is the medical director of the Duke Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology and a former medical director of DAN. Throughout his more than 40-year career in dive medicine and research, Moon has worked to gain a better understanding of how the human body functions at environmental extremes. His research focuses on gas exchange and cardiorespiratory function in the body while deep underwater or at high altitude.

Moon earned his doctor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal and completed residency and fellowship training at the University of Toronto and Duke University. He began working at the Duke hyperbaric center in 1979. Throughout his career, Moon has investigated numerous phenomena that affect divers, including immersion pulmonary edema, arterial gas embolism, hypoxia, and decompression sickness. He has also worked to improve the decompression procedures used in altitude diving and has studied the utility of novel breathing gases in decompression. In addition to being a prolific researcher, Moon teaches and practices medicine. He has won multiple awards for teaching and mentoring medical students. And not only has he enhanced the understanding of diving and treatment of injured divers, he has provided hyperbaric oxygen therapy and other medical care, advice, and assistance directly to hundreds of divers who were suffering from diving-related injuries.

Moon’s support for explorers and adventurers goes beyond treating injured people and establishing safety standards and procedures; he also works with divers and climbers prior to travel to help them determine their fitness for diving or ascending to altitude. Beyond working with divers and travelers, Moon also directs care for people with various medical conditions who can benefit from hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These conditions include carbon monoxide poisoning, wounds that aren’t healing properly, radiation-induced tissue injuries and more.

Moon’s work on the effects of submersion and decompression has benefited countless divers over the years. Through his commitment and significant contributions to dive medicine, Moon has made diving safer for all.

“One of our major tasks as senior people in any field is to help the next generation, and I really love doing that,” says Moon. “If the Rolex award provides more opportunities to do that I’ll be absolutely ecstatic.”

Source: Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society awards program announcement (June 2021)

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