Shrunk but sleeping better, Dr Deep Sea resurfaces

Dr Deep Sea prepares to leave the undersea habitat after 100 days
Joseph Dituri prepares to leave Jules’ Undersea Habitat, his home for 100 days (Florida Keys News Bureau)
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“Dr Deep Sea” has resurfaced following his record-breaking 100-day stay in a Florida underwater habitat. Saturation diver turned medical researcher Dr Joseph Dituri completed his extended dive at the Jules’ Undersea Lodge marine habitat in Key Largo on 9 June.

Also read: Secret’s out: UK dive-site now ’DEEP Campus’

He hadn’t been that deep at 9m but he had been there a long time, and was already aware of one key physical change ­– living under pressure had caused his body to shrink slightly. He had been 6ft 1in tall when he descended on 1 March, and half an inch (1.25cm) had been shaved off his height. 

At the same time Dr Dituri had experienced a significant improvement in the quality of his sleep, and other preliminary findings indicated that his levels of cholesterol and inflammation had been reduced during his stay, according to the University of South Florida (USF), where he is an associate professor of biomedical engineering.

The 9sq m underwater habitat in Emerald Lagoon has its interior pressure set to match that of the surrounding water. Its owner the Marine Resources Development Foundation had organised Dr Dituri’s Project Neptune 100 underwater experiment. 

During his stay, on 13 May, the 55-year-old had broken the Guinness World Record for underwater human habitation at ambient pressure by completing 74 days in the habitat, as reported on Divernet

The previous record had been set at the same location by US professors Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain nine years ago, but Dr Deep Sea described that achievement as less about setting records as “extending human tolerance for the underwater world” in an isolated, confined, extreme environment.

Scuba-diving visitors

During his stint at depth, Dr Dituri underwent regular medical and psychological assessments, conducted his own marine-science research experiments, interacted online with more than 5,500 students from 12 countries, continued to teach his biomedical engineering classes virtually and hosted more than 60 scuba-diving visitors to the habitat. 

Dr Dituri had been a saturation diving officer in the US Navy for 28 years, retiring as a commander in 2012 to enrol on a USF doctoral degree course. He had wanted to study the type of brain injuries he had seen others sustain in the military. 

Aware that hyperbaric pressure could increase cerebral blood-flow, he had hypothesised that increased pressure could help humans live longer and prevent age-related diseases. He hopes that his research will eventually help doctors in treating a wide range of conditions, including traumatic brain injuries. 

“The human body has never been under water that long,” said Dr Dituri. “This experience has changed me in an important way, and my greatest hope is that I have inspired a new generation of explorers and researchers to push past all boundaries.”

After analysing the data accumulated before, during and after the 100 days, he and his team plan to present their Project Neptune 100 findings at November’s World Extreme Medicine conference in Edinburgh.

“Dr Dituri’s amazing accomplishment is a great testimony to significant advances in knowledge and translational research that we are making here at USF in the area of bariatric medicine,” said Prof Robert Frisina, chair of USF’s Department of Medical Engineering.

“Much important data has been collected over the past 100 days that will eventually find its way to key preventative and curative clinical procedures.”

Also on Divernet: Proteus: Undersea Habitat Of The Future, Bid To Dive Aquarius Reef Base


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3 months ago

Practical , useful. Should imagine there are a lot of benefits for human health via alternative treatments as well as Space Travel.

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