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International Cooperation for the Advancement of Research on the Underlying System of Human Thermoregulation

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Researching human thermoregulation

Exposure to heat stress threatens vulnerable populations such as infants, the elderly, and people with cardiovascular and respiratory disease. EU-funded research explored mechanisms of temperature regulation and heatstroke to improve preventative strategies.


The project ICARUS (International cooperation for the advancement of research on the underlying system of human thermoregulation) was established with a view to mitigating heat-induced morbidity and mortality. The joint exchange programme's main goal was to foster future development of a multinational centre of excellence for environmental physiology. This was achieved through exchanges of research staff between leading European-based research entities and an internationally renowned research centre based in Cape Town, South Africa. Partners from Greece, the Netherlands, Slovenia and South Africa addressed different aspects of human thermoregulation and its results through joint research, networking, research training and workshops. They created long-term collaborations on environmental heat exposure that will facilitate better protection of public health. Just over one third of the research staff were early-stage researchers, and the remaining were experienced researchers. Joint research was conducted on thermal and non-thermal factors affecting neuronal mechanisms of temperature regulation. Additionally, they assessed body heat balance and perspiration rate during successive exercise sessions using simultaneous whole-body and indirect calorimetry. Three focused joint workshops and various seminars provided structured environments for exchanging knowledge and information and helped to accelerate learning. Networking also facilitated the efficient sharing of data and other common resources. Research studies helped produce important knowledge outcomes on the effects of chronic cold exposure on metabolism and the effect of inactivity (a non-thermal factor) on temperature regulation. It also increased knowledge of the development of exercise-induced heatstroke, the interpretation of environmental and the possibility of improving heat tolerance during activity in simulated desert conditions. The collaborative research initiative has improved understanding of temperature regulation mechanisms. Project work and outcomes promise to lead to more effective prevention of heatstroke and mortality.


Thermoregulation, heat stress, temperature regulation, heatstroke, environmental physiology

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