By: Cassidy Delamarter, University Communications and Marketing
A University of South Florida associate professor’s 100-day mission is complete – successfully reaching uncharted territory for science and setting a new world record for living underwater, previously set at 73 days. Joseph Dituri, also known as Dr. Deep Sea, resurfaced from a 100-square-foot habitat located 22 feet underwater in Key Largo on the morning of June 9. He was greeted by friends and family, media and strangers who’ve been following his journey. Dituri’s team of doctors was also on standby, ready to immediately perform his first round of medical testing on land.
After reaching the surface of the water, Dituri greeted the crowd with a big smile. He completed a quick check by doctors before taking a shower and rejoining everyone to share his experiences over the last 100 days.
“The human body has never been underwater that long,” Dituri said. “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.”
On March 1, the 55-year-old biomedical engineer set out on the multifaceted research project to learn more about the effects of hyperbaric pressure on the human body. He hopes this research will be useful in treating a broad spectrum of illnesses, including traumatic brain injuries. Dituri’s hypothesis that led him to this project: Increased pressure has the potential to help humans live longer and prevent diseases associated with aging.
He's already discovered one change to his body – the pressure caused him to shrink a half-inch. At the time of his departure, he was 6 feet, 1 inch tall.
Although the prolonged exposure to increased pressure may cause a human to shrink, Dituri says other preliminary findings reveal a significant improvement to his sleep, cholesterol levels and inflammation.
“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 Distinguished University Professor Robert Frisina, chair of the 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.”
Over the next several months, Dituri and his medical team will analyze data collected before, during and after his mission. Dituri plans to present his results at the World Extreme Medicine Conference in Scotland in November.
In addition to the research, he also collaborated with experts on how to protect, preserve and rejuvenate the marine environment; and engage and inspire the next generation of scientists.
During the 14 weeks he was underwater, Dituri virtually taught a biomedical engineering course at USF and conducted 124 online interactions, engaging with more than 5,500 students from 15 countries.
“It became my favorite part of the mission,” Dituri said. “Who knows, maybe one day, one of them will come back and break the record we just set.”