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Bone and muscle data from mice, collected by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Rhode Island, show that it is possible to mitigate some of the effects of zero gravity. Muscle atrophy and loss of bone density are major concerns for space travelers, especially those on long-duration missions. This research is the first of its kind to simulate the effects of artificial gravity on mice that were present on the International Space Station (ISS), as the mice were exposed to different levels of gravity on the International Space Station.
Preliminary research shows that artificial gravity could help relieve muscle problems caused by spaceflight
While humans have been living and working on the International Space Station (ISS) for decades, deeper space exploration has been limited by technology and the human body. To date, no spacecraft has been developed that can transport humans to other planets, and the only outer space object that has seen a “visit” from Earth travelers is the Moon.
Since the lunar missions of the Apollo era, space exploration has now taken on a new dimension in the 21st century. NASA’s Artemis program aims to be a launching pad for exploration of the solar system, with the first steps calling for a presence on the moon. In addition, SpaceX’s Starship program – currently under development in Texas – aims to make regular trips to Mars.
To make their journey to Mars, future astronauts will have to deal with the harsh conditions of outer space. Humans have evolved to live on Earth, and some of the limitations of deep space exploration include the harsh radiation found just beyond Earth and prolonged exposure to zero gravity.
Zero gravity affects a person’s muscles, bone mass and other areas. On this front, new data collected by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Rhode Island show that it may be possible to mitigate some of these effects.
I don’t take pictures, but the summary is there @ASGSRSspace site below! Search for “Wadhwa” to drag the file #MHU8 Bone data with @Mary Boxen, #MHU8 Muscle data from @doctormarymaticsGalactic Cosmic Radiation/Alzheimer’s Project with @SREmerzianPhD! https://t.co/0yIOt4IjzF
– Anna Wadhwa (Annadromeda_) November 30, 2023
The research involved exposing 12-week-old adult mice to zero gravity, 0.33 g, 0.67 g, or 1 g in centrifuges during a 30-day mission on the International Space Station. Meanwhile, 12 mice were also placed in similar conditions on the floor. When the research period ended, the body weight of the mice and bone grip strength were measured. They were then euthanized and dissected to evaluate their muscles.
One of the bones in the human body most affected by zero-gravity conditions is the femur. This is a weight-bearing bone, and the force of gravity on the human body imparts strength to the bones. Today’s research shows that for rat femurs, artificial gravity similar to that of Mars (0.33 simulated vs. 0.38 actual) resulted in an increase in femur bone mineral density (BMD).
In addition, the percentage loss of lean muscle mass was lowest for the test subjects at 0.33 grams, and according to the research summary, the wet mass of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles was 0.33 grams higher for the mice than those exposed to zero gravity. The gastrocnemius muscle is the upper part of the leg and the soleus muscle also covers the upper area of the leg. Like the thigh bones, they are also weight-bearing muscles.
The researchers are using this data to conclude that exposure to artificial gravity through a centrifuge could help reduce the effects of artificial gravity on muscles. Whether the same will apply to humans remains to be investigated.
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