The reason why he went underwater
The academic, also known as “Dr. Deep Sea” (Deep Sea Doctor), broke the world record for staying underwater by spending 74 consecutive days in the Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo (at the southern tip of Florida ).
The previous world record for life underwater was 73 days, 2 hours and 34 minutes and was set in 2014 by 2 professors from Tennessee, Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain, who were also in the same underwater module in Florida.
But breaking this record has never been Dituri’s primary objective, but rather the possible scientific advances derived from his long stay in an underwater refuge.
“Curiosity to discover has led me here. My goal since day 1 has been to inspire generations to come, interview scientists who study life underwater, and learn how the human body works in extreme environments,” Dituri wrote in Twitter the day he reported his record.
The team associated with the Dr. Deep Sea mission congratulated the scientist on its website for his achievements with the so-called Neptune project, which combined “the education of children, research on the conservation of the oceans and the study of the effects physiological and psychological effects of compression in the human body”.
“My time under the sea has reaffirmed my love, care and curiosity for our oceans. They give us so much and we must do the same for them,” he wrote on social networks.
In his current experiment, which began in March, the USF associate professor has studied how the human body responds to long-term exposure to extreme pressure.
Dituri lived from March 1 to today at a depth of 9.15 meters in a 9.3-square-meter underwater habitat, from where he continued to teach his online biomedical engineering class.
The professor mentioned, in this context, that “it takes 200 days to travel to Mars” and the astronauts “will have to travel to a similar environment” to the one they are in now, “a confined area that limits food options”, do exercise or causes “loss of muscle mass, bone mass and vision problems”.
This research will serve to help “better prepare our astronauts to ensure they arrive healthy and strong enough to explore the planet,” according to Dituri.
Ongoing research may not only be beneficial for space travel, but could help people with traumatic brain injuries through the use of hyperbaric pressure chambers.
The USF professor’s hypothesis is that “if hyperbaric pressure can be used to increase cerebral blood flow, then it can be used to treat traumatic brain injuries and a broad spectrum of diseases.”
Before, during and after the project, Dituri will undergo a series of psychosocial, psychological and medical tests, including blood tests, ultrasounds and electrocardiograms, as well as stem cell tests, he added.
“This study will look at all the ways this trip affects my body, but my hypothesis is that there will be improvements in my health due to the increased pressure,” added Dituri, who was a Navy diver for 28 years.
The 100-day mission included testing new technological tools based on artificial intelligence to detect diseases in the human body and determine if medicines are needed, and studying ways to preserve, protect and rehabilitate the marine environment.
“Everything we need to survive is here on the planet,” Dituri summarized.