Fields of Activity
Dynamics of the human organism – “The only thing that is stable is change”
In a healthy human organism, nothing is stable: all parameters display continuous changes, depending on daytime, development and season, just to name a few influences. Our organism not only adapts to external conditions but also uses internal oscillators to prepare every morning for the day to come. The immune system functions are reduced every morning, heart rate is increased and the body and mind are prepared to the needs of daytime activities. Recent research has shown, that Zeitgebers – the physical factors (e.g. light), that synchronize our internal to the external oscillations of day and night, also synchronize the single organs to each other. This results in a start signal for the timetable which guarantees the well-functioning of our body.
In the special research program ‘Optimization and Control’ of the Austrian Research Fund an emphasis was set on the dynamics of the regulation of the human organism and appropriate models were created. Methods were prepared for the early diagnoses of illnesses and/or for the evaluation of therapy procedures using system-analytic optimization and modeling. New parameters were developed, to characterize the state of health dynamically.
Future functional diagnosis and devices
Medical diagnosis intends to differentiate between diseases or to estimate the severity of a disease. Many sick people do not (yet) suffer from organic diseases but suffer from tiredness, dizziness, head-aches or sleep disorders. This has been summarized as functional disorders by medical doctors and little helpful can be done by medicine before manifest organic diseases occur.
Functional disorders may be captured by functional diagnoses only, and there is little available on this field. Heart rate variability is a promising candidate for functional diagnosis of the future as it is able to capture the balance of the autonomic nervous system. We, at the Human Research Institute, are developing premium devices for the measurement of heart rate variability. A broad use of the diagnostic procedures is possible only if the measurement can be performed without auxiliary expenditure for the subjects measured. Therefore great care is taken to integrate the measuring systems into mobile and ambulatory devices, like our ChronoCord™. Stress, sleep and recovery research are goals of the diagnostic procedures developed at the Institute. Stress represents a considerable health endangerment and impairs the quality of life of the concerning subject. This leads to a reduced efficiency, higher time absent and may even induce the development of serious diseases. The high psychological load on the job of health service personnel e.g. can lead to ‘burn-out’ easily. Good sleep not only improves cognitive performance, vigilance, memory and mood, whereas sleep deprivation is connected to inflammation, changed immune cell ratios and telomere shortening (faster aging). We are therefore providing home sleep diagnosis as well as chronobiologically based measures for sleep improvement and stress reduction.
These topics are getting progressively important as one considers the demographic development: An aging society will have to use all efforts to age healthy and to keep the costs and burden of organic diseases low.
Assessment and efficacy research – preventative medicine and medical wellness
Health-related statements concerning effectiveness of interventions or cures are subject to strict conditions of effect proofs. Also within the range of preventive medicine and medical wellness such conditions become generally accepted and increase the demand for scientific studies over the actual effectiveness of cures, substances or applications. While the evaluation of the effectiveness on illnesses can be done according to the rules of clinical practice and evidence-based medicine, the effect proof can be performed only with difficulty for preventive measures. Since functional disturbances occur long time before outbreak of organic diseases, the measurement of functional regulation and coordination offers itself as optimal tool for evaluation of preventive measures. Not the organic illness and its remission, but the effect of a measure on the functional co-ordination and integration of organs is observed. Applications of the functional diagnostic procedures, developed by our institute, in the evaluation of medical and preventive measures is therefore one main research interest.
Competence Network Water
Some of our research has been performed in the context of the Competence Network ‘water resources and their management’ of the Austrian Research Promoting Society (FFG). We would like to thank the Competence Network Water for giving us the opportunity to do such extensive research on the topic. One important part of this of work was to quantify and specify the medical effects of medical-wellness applications. The goal of our institute in this context is to develop methods for the evaluation of such applications and quality management particularly focused on the result quality. We are developing and have successfully applied such innovative forms of quality management for clinical setting as well as for the health tourism. These tools will also be suited for the improvement of therapies and for the development of new ones. They will be the backbone of an evidence-based medical-wellness.