Due to spaceflight, astronauts experience serious, weightlessness-induced bone loss because of an unbalanced process of bone remodeling that involves bone marrow mes- enchymal stem cells (BMSCs), as well as osteoblasts, osteo- cytes, and osteoclasts. The effects of microgravity on osteo- cells have been extensively studied, but it is only recently that consideration has been given to the role of BMSCs. Pre- vious researches indicated that human BMSCs cultured in simulated microgravity (sim-μg) alter their proliferation and differentiation. The spaceflight opportunities for biomedical experiments are rare and suffer from a number of opera- tive constraints that could bias the validity of the experiment itself, but remain a unique opportunity to confirm and explain the effects due to microgravity, that are only par- tially activated/detectable in simulated conditions. For this reason, we carefully prepared the SCD – STEM CELLS DIFFERENTIATION experiment, selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) and now on the International Space Station (ISS). Here we present the preparatory studies per- formed on ground to adapt the project to the spaceflight constraints in terms of culture conditions, fixation and stor- age of human BMSCs in space aiming at satisfying the biological requirements mandatory to retrieve suitable sam- ples for post-flight analyses. We expect to understand better the molecular mechanisms governing human BMSC growth and differentiation hoping to outline new countermeasures against astronaut bone loss.
Research Containing: bone mineral content
Guidelines for Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry Analysis of Trabecular Bone-Rich Regions in Mice: Improved Precision, Accuracy, and Sensitivity for Assessing Longitudinal Bone Changes
Trabecular bone is frequently studied in osteoporosis research because changes in trabecular bone are the most common cause of osteoporotic fractures. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) analysis specific to trabecular bone-rich regions is crucial to longitudinal osteoporosis research. The purpose of this study is to define a novel method for accurately analyzing trabecular bone-rich regions in mice via DXA. This method will be utilized to analyze scans obtained from the International Space Station in an upcoming study of microgravity-induced bone loss. Thirty 12-week-old BALB/c mice were studied. The novel method was developed by preanalyzing trabecular bone-rich sites in the distal femur, proximal tibia, and lumbar vertebrae via high-resolution X-ray imaging followed by DXA and micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) analyses. The key DXA steps described by the novel method were (1) proper mouse positioning, (2) region of interest (ROI) sizing, and (3) ROI positioning. The precision of the new method was assessed by reliability tests and a 14-week longitudinal study. The bone mineral content (BMC) data from DXA was then compared to the BMC data from micro-CT to assess accuracy. Bone mineral density (BMD) intra-class correlation coefficients of the new method ranging from 0.743 to 0.945 and Levene’s test showing that there was significantly lower variances of data generated by new method both verified its consistency. By new method, a Bland-Altman plot displayed good agreement between DXA BMC and micro-CT BMC for all sites and they were strongly correlated at the distal femur and proximal tibia (r=0.846, p<0.01; r=0.879, p<0.01, respectively). The results suggest that the novel method for site-specific analysis of trabecular bone-rich regions in mice via DXA yields more precise, accurate, and repeatable BMD measurements than the conventional method.
The effect of weightlessness on the human skeletal system is one of the greatest concerns in safely extending space missions [1–11]. The ability to understand and counteract weightlessness-induced bone mineral loss will be vital to crew health and safety during and after extended-duration space sta- tion and exploration missions [1–7]. Research on bone mineral loss during space flight has gone on for more than half a century, and recent studies have shown significant progress in developing coun- termeasures that have proved to be effective, including good nutrition and exercise. We review the history of this research here and provide a summary of recent and ongoing studies, including efforts to counteract bone and calcium loss resulting from weightlessness. Unfortunately, the most obvious nutritional countermeasure—providing excess calcium—does not protect against bone loss . This result is likely related to the decreased calcium absorption observed in space flight and in ground-based models [13–16]. Phosphate supplementation was also ineffective at reducing calcium excretion . Combination therapy with calcium and phosphorus was also unsuccessful at mitigating bone loss and hypercalciuria . Other nutrients, specifically sodium, protein, potassium, vitamin K, and omega-3 fatty acids, have also been proposed and/or tested as bone loss countermeasures , and are discussed in more detail below.
Bone loss and renal stone risk are longstanding concerns for astronauts. Bone resorption brought on by spaceflight elevates urinary calcium and the risk of renal stone formation. Loss of bone calcium leads to concerns about fracture risk and increased long-term risk of osteoporosis. Bone metabolism involves many factors and is interconnected with muscle metabolism and diet. We report here bone biochemistry and renal stone risk data from astronauts on 4- to 6-month International Space Station missions. All had access to a type of resistive exercise countermeasure hardware, either the Advanced Resistance Exercise Device (ARED) or the Interim Resistance Exercise Device (iRED). A subset of the ARED group also tested the bisphosphonate alendronate as a potential anti-resorptive countermeasure (Bis+ARED). While some of the basic bone marker data have been published, we provide here a more comprehensive evaluation of bone biochemistry with a larger group of astronauts. Regardless of exercise, the risk of renal stone formation increased during spaceflight. A key factor in this increase was urine volume, which was lower during flight in all groups at all time points. Thus, the easiest way to mitigate renal stone risk is to increase fluid consumption. ARED use increased bone formation without changing bone resorption, and mitigated a drop in parathyroid hormone in iRED astronauts. Sclerostin, an osteocyte-derived negative regulator of bone formation, increased 10-15% in both groups of astronauts who used the ARED (p<0.06). IGF-1, which regulates bone growth and formation, increased during flight in all 3 groups (p<0.001). Our results are consistent with the growing body of literature showing that the hyper-resorptive state of bone that is brought on by spaceflight can be countered pharmacologically or mitigated through an exercise-induced increase in bone formation, with nutritional support. Key questions remain about the effect of exercise-induced alterations in bone metabolism on bone strength and fracture risk.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient for muscle, cardiovascular, and bone health on Earth, and during space flight. We sought to evaluate magnesium status in 43 astronauts (34 male, 9 female; 47 +/- 5 years old, mean +/- SD) before, during, and after 4-6-month space missions. We also studied individuals participating in a ground analog of space flight (head-down-tilt bed rest; n = 27 (17 male, 10 female), 35 +/- 7 years old). We evaluated serum concentration and 24-h urinary excretion of magnesium, along with estimates of tissue magnesium status from sublingual cells. Serum magnesium increased late in flight, while urinary magnesium excretion was higher over the course of 180-day space missions. Urinary magnesium increased during flight but decreased significantly at landing. Neither serum nor urinary magnesium changed during bed rest. For flight and bed rest, significant correlations existed between the area under the curve of serum and urinary magnesium and the change in total body bone mineral content. Tissue magnesium concentration was unchanged after flight and bed rest. Increased excretion of magnesium is likely partially from bone and partially from diet, but importantly, it does not come at the expense of muscle tissue stores. While further study is needed to better understand the implications of these findings for longer space exploration missions, magnesium homeostasis and tissue status seem well maintained during 4-6-month space missions.
Characteristics of local human skeleton responses to microgravity and drug treatment for osteoporosis in clinic
Analysis of the results of long term investigations of bones in cosmonauts on board Mir orbital sta tion(OS) and International Space Station (ISS) (n = 80) was performed. Theoretically predicted (evolution ary predefined) change in mass of different skeleton bones was found to be correlated (r = 0.904) with the position relative to Earth’s gravity vector. Vector dependence of bone loss results from local specificity of expression of bone metabolism genes, which reflects mechanical prehistory of skeleton structures in the evo lution of Homo erectus. Genetic polymorphism is accountable for high individual variability of bone loss, which is attested by the dependence of bone loss rate on polymorphism of certain genetic markers of bone metabolism. The type of the orbital vehicle did not affect the individual specific stability of the bone loss ratio in different segments of the skeleton. This fact is considered as a phenotype fingerprint of local metabolism in the form of a locus specific spatial structure of distribution of non collagen proteins responsible for posi tion regulation of endosteal metabolism. Drug treatment of osteoporosis (n = 107) evidences that recovery rate depends on bone location; the most likely reason is different effectiveness of local osteotropic interven tion into areas of bustling resorption.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and increased susceptibility to fractures. The microgravity of space creates an extreme environment that provides a model for osteoporosis in humans. This greatly accelerated form of osteopenia results in a 0.5-2% loss of bone mass per month. Rat models for this osteoporosis have been examined on many occasions, but STS-108 was the first Space Shuttle flight to use mice. Data reported to date indicate that spaceflight experiments with mice hold promise in predicting some spaceflight effects on humans. Due to the cost and infrequency of flights, ground-based models have been developed to mimic the deleterious effects of the microgravity environment. Hindlimb suspension is one such localized model. This model removes gravitational loading from the hindlimbs by suspending the animal by its tail to a guy wire that runs lengthwise across the cage. Because mice had not flown before STS-108, a direct comparison of this model’s ability to predict spaceflight results has not been examined. The objective of this research is to closely repeat the STS- 108 profile, with hindlimb suspension replacing spaceflight. This includes examining the ability of the protein osteoprotegerin, an osteoclast-inhibiting therapeutic, to mitigate the deleterious effects of skeletal unloading. It is expected that the results will lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of mineralization and bone remodeling to aid in development of countermeasures to prevent spaceflight induced osteoporosis and aid the treatment of osteoporosis here on earth.
Effects of spaceflight on the murine mandible: Possible factors mediating skeletal changes in non-weight bearing bones of the head
Spaceflight-induced remodeling of the skull is characterized by greater bone volume, mineral density, and mineral content. To further investigate the effects of spaceflight on other non-weight bearing bones of the head, as well as to gain insight into potential factors mediating the remodeling of the skull, the purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of spaceflight on mandibular bone properties. Female C57BL/6 mice were flown 15d on the STS-131 Space Shuttle mission (n=8) and 13d on the STS-135 mission (n=5) or remained as ground controls (GC). Upon landing, mandibles were collected and analyzed via micro-computed tomography for tissue mineralization, bone volume (BV/TV), and distance from the cemento-enamel junction to the alveolar crest (CEJ-AC). Mandibular mineralization was not different between spaceflight (SF) and GC mice for either the STS-131 or STS-135 missions. Mandibular BV/TV (combined cortical and trabecular bone) was lower in mandibles from SF mice on the STS-131 mission (80.7+/-0.8%) relative to that of GC (n=8) animals (84.2+/-1.2%), whereas BV/TV from STS-135 mice was not different from GC animals (n=7). The CEJ-AC distance was shorter in mandibles from STS-131 mice (0.217+/-0.004mm) compared to GC animals (0.283+/-0.009mm), indicating an anabolic (or anti-catabolic) effect of spaceflight, while CEJ-AC distance was similar between STS-135 and GC mice. These findings demonstrate that mandibular bones undergo skeletal changes during spaceflight and are susceptible to the effects of weightlessness. However, adaptation of the mandible to spaceflight is dissimilar to that of the cranium, at least in terms of changes in BV/TV.