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.
Research Containing: Space Shuttle
Expression of p53-Regulated Proteins in Human Cultured Lymphoblastoid TSCE5 and WTK1 Cell Lines during Spaceflight
The aim of this study was to determine the biological effects of space radiations, microgravity, and the interaction of them on the expression of p53-regulated proteins. Space experiments were performed with two human cultured lymphoblastoid cell lines: one line (TSCE5) bears a wild-type p53 gene status, and another line (WTK1) bears a mutated p53 gene status. Under 1 gravity or microgravity conditions, the cells were grown in the cell biology experimental facility (CBEF) of the International Space Station for 8 days without experiencing the stress during launching and landing because the cells were frozen during these periods. Ground control samples were simultaneously cultured for 8 days in the CBEF on the ground for 8 days. After spaceflight, protein expression was analyzed using a PanoramaTM Ab MicroArray protein chips. It was found that p53-dependent up-regulated proteins in response to space radiations and space environment were MeCP2 (methyl CpG binding protein 2), and Notch1 (Notch homolog 1), respectively. On the other hand, p53-dependent down-regulated proteins were TGF-β, TWEAKR (tumor necrosis fac- tor-like weak inducer of apoptosis receptor), phosho-Pyk2 (Proline-rich tyrosine kinase 2), and 14-3-3θ/τ which were affected by microgravity, and DR4 (death receptor 4), PRMT1 (protein arginine methyltrans- ferase 1) and ROCK-2 (Rho-associated, coiled-coil containing protein kinase 2) in response to space radi- ations. ROCK-2 was also suppressed in response to the space environment. The data provides the p53- dependent regulated proteins by exposure to space radiations and/or microgravity during spaceflight. Our expression data revealed proteins that might help to advance the basic space radiation biology.
Rapid Access:Dream Chaser® Space Traffic Management and Operations to Enable Near-Immediate Payload Access for Responsive Mission and Payload Support
As research institutions all over the world are placing a higher value on space-based science, the need for rapid access to vehicles returning from space carrying experiments grows more important. One of the challenges of enhanced science utilization is rapid access to space vehicles post-flight, which is significantly enabled by effective space traffic management and integration of space operations into a mature commercial aviation system to achieve radically improved orbit to researcher timelines. Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Space Systems’ Dream Chaser® reusable spacecraft is designed for multiple applications including cargo and/or crew resupply to the International Space Station and independent long duration science missions. The Dream Chaser is an optionally-piloted, reusable lifting-body spacecraft that lands horizontally on a runway, similar to the Space Shuttle. Unlike the Space Shuttle, the Dream Chaser design supports the unique capability of being able to land at many domestic and international commercial and public-use airports, and offers access to cargo and/or crew almost immediately thereafter. Though this capability presents a unique opportunity for researchers in the field of microgravity science, there are challenges when considering the current landscape of regulation, public risk, and autonomous flight. The potential opportunities associated with landing the Dream Chaser at public-use airports to enable globally convenient and rapid access to crew, cargo, and time critical microgravity experiments post-flight are identified and addressed in this paper.
Manned space flight induces a reduction in immune competence among crew and is likely to cause deleterious changes to the composition of the gastrointestinal, nasal, and respiratory bacterial flora, leading to an increased risk of infection. The space flight environment may also affect the susceptibility of microorganisms within the spacecraft to antibiotics, key components of flown medical kits, and may modify the virulence characteristics of bacteria and other microorganisms that contaminate the fabric of the International Space Station and other flight platforms. This review will consider the impact of true and simulated microgravity and other characteristics of the space flight environment on bacterial cell behavior in relation to the potential for serious infections that may appear during missions to astronomical objects beyond low Earth orbit.
INTRODUCTION: Cardiovascular deconditioning apparently progresses with flight duration, resulting in a greater incidence of orthostatic intolerance following long-duration missions. Therefore, we anticipated that the proportion of astronauts who could not complete an orthostatic tilt test (OTT) would be higher on landing day and the number of days to recover greater after International Space Station (ISS) than after Space Shuttle missions. METHODS: There were 20 ISS and 65 Shuttle astronauts who participated in 10-min 80 degrees head-up tilt tests 10 d before launch, on landing day (R+0), and 3 d after landing (R+3). Fisher’s Exact Test was used to compare the ability of ISS and Shuttle astronauts to complete the OTT. Cox regression was used to identify cardiovascular parameters associated with OTT completion and mixed model analysis was used to compare the change and recovery rates between groups. RESULTS: The proportion of astronauts who completed the OTT on R+0 (2 of 6) was less in ISS than in Shuttle astronauts (52 of 65). On R+3, 13 of 15 and 19 of 19 of the ISS and Shuttle astronauts, respectively, completed the OTT. An index comprised of stroke volume and diastolic blood pressure provided a good prediction of OTT completion and was altered by spaceflight similarly for both astronaut groups, but recovery was slower in ISS than in Shuttle astronauts. CONCLUSIONS: The proportion of ISS astronauts who could not complete the OTT on R+0 was greater and the recovery rate slower after ISS compared to Shuttle missions. Thus, mission planners and crew surgeons should anticipate the need to tailor scheduled activities and level of medical support to accommodate protracted recovery after long-duration microgravity exposures.
Bone loss associated with microgravity exposure poses a significant barrier to long-duration spaceflight. Osteoprotegerin-Fc (OPG-Fc) is a receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B ligand (RANKL) inhibitor that causes sustained inhibition of bone resorption after a single subcutaneous injection. We tested the ability of OPG-Fc to preserve bone mass during 12 days of spaceflight (SF). 64-day-old female C57BL/6J mice (n=12/group) were injected subcutaneously with OPG-Fc (20mg/kg) or an inert vehicle (VEH), 24h prior to launch. Ground control (GC) mice (VEH or OPG-Fc) were maintained under environmental conditions that mimicked those in the space shuttle middeck. Age-matched baseline (BL) controls were sacrificed at launch. GC/VEH, but not SF/VEH mice, gained tibia BMD and trabecular volume fraction (BV/TV) during the mission (P<0.05 vs. BL). SF/VEH mice had lower BV/TV vs. GC/VEH mice, while SF/OPG-Fc mice had greater BV/TV than SF/VEH or GC/VEH. SF reduced femur elastic and maximum strength in VEH mice, with OPG-Fc increasing elastic strength in SF mice. Serum TRAP5b was elevated in SF/VEH mice vs. GC/VEH mice. Conversely, SF/OPG-Fc mice had lower TRAP5b levels, suggesting that OPG-Fc preserved bone during spaceflight via inhibition of osteoclast-mediated bone resorption. Decreased bone formation also contributed to the observed osteopenia, based on the reduced femur periosteal bone formation rate and serum osteocalcin level. Overall, these observations suggest that the beneficial effects of OPG-Fc during SF are primarily due to dramatic and sustained suppression of bone resorption. In growing mice, this effect appears to compensate for the SF-related inhibition of bone formation, while preventing any SF-related increase in bone resorption. We have demonstrated that the young mouse is an appropriate new model for SF-induced osteopenia, and that a single pre-flight treatment with OPG-Fc can effectively prevent the deleterious effects of SF on mouse bone.
Capillary Channel Flow (CCF) EU2–02 on the International Space Station (ISS): An Experimental Investigation of Passive Bubble Separations in an Open Capillary Channel
It would be signi cantly easier to design uid systems for spacecraft if the uid phases behaved similarly to those on earth. In this research an open 15:8 wedge- sectioned channel is employed to separate bubbles from a two-phase ow in a micro- gravity environment. The bubbles appear to rise in the channel and coalesce with the free surface in much the same way as would bubbles in a terrestrial environ- ment, only the combined e ects of surface tension, wetting, and conduit geometry replace the role of buoyancy. The host liquid is drawn along the channel by a pump and noncondensible gas bubbles are injected into it near the channel vertex at the channel inlet. Control parameters include bubble volume, bubble frequency, liq- uid volumetric ow rate, and channel length. The asymmetrically con ned bubbles are driven in the cross- ow direction by capillary forces until they at least become inscribed within the section or until they come in contact with the free surface, whereupon they usually coalesce and leave the ow. The merging of bubbles en- hances, but does not guarantee, the latter. The experiments are performed aboard the International Space Station as a subset of the Capillary Channel Flow experi- ments. The ight hardware is commanded remotely and continuously from ground stations during the tests and an extensive array of experiments is conducted identi- fying numerous bubble ow regimes and regime transitions depending on the ratio and magnitude of the gas and liquid volumetric ow rates. The breadth of the pub- licly available experiments is conveyed herein primarily by narrative and by regime maps, where transitions are approximated by simple expressions immediately useful for the purposes of design and deeper analysis.
Secretory proteins produced by salivary glands are stored in granules and released into saliva. Rodent salivary glands are a reliable experimental model because they are morphologically and functionally similar to those of humans. To determine if the effects of microgravity on secretory proteins are increased on extended flights, their expression in mouse parotid glands, morphological, immuno- cytochemical, and biochemical/molecular methods were employed. Acinar cells of STS-135 (13 day) and Bion-M1 (30 day) flight animals showed an increase of autophagy and apoptosis, while duct cells contained vacuoles with endocytosed proteins. In STS-135, decreases were seen in the regulatory subunit of type II protein kinase A (RII) by Western blotting, and demilune cell and parotid protein (DCPP) and α- amylase (p<0.01) by immunogold labeling, while proline-rich proteins (PRPs, p<0.001) and parotid secretory protein (PSP, p<0.05) were increased. These results suggest microgravity effects on secretion are function-dependent. Microarray analyses showed significant changes in the expression of a number of genes, including components of the cyclic-3',5',-adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP) signaling pathway. Compared to habitat ground controls, mice from both flights exhibited altered expression of cyclic AMP-specific phosphodiesterases, adenylate cyclase isoforms, and several A-kinase anchoring proteins. Bion-M1 flight mice showed increases in gene expression for lysozyme and amylase, a decrease in PRPs, and RII expression was unchanged from control values. Secretory protein expression is altered by travel in space, representing a reversible adjustment to microgravity conditions. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a test kit using saliva — an easily obtained body fluid — to assess the physiologic effects of travel in space.
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.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency developed the mouse Habitat Cage Unit (HCU) for installation in the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) onboard the Japanese Experimental Module (“Kibo”) on the International Space Station. The CBEF provides “space-based controls” by generating artificial gravity in the HCU through a centrifuge, enabling a comparison of the biological consequences of microgravity and artificial gravity of 1 g on mice housed in space. Therefore, prior to the space experiment, a ground-based study to validate the habitability of the HCU is necessary to conduct space experiments using the HCU in the CBEF. Here, we investigated the ground-based effect of a 32-day housing period in the HCU breadboard model on male mice in comparison with the control cage mice. Morphology of skeletal muscle, the thymus, heart, and kidney, and the sperm function showed no critical abnormalities between the control mice and HCU mice. Slight but significant changes caused by the HCU itself were observed, including decreased body weight, increased weights of the thymus and gastrocnemius, reduced thickness of cortical bone of the femur, and several gene expressions from 11 tissues. Results suggest that the HCU provides acceptable conditions for mouse phenotypic analysis using CBEF in space, as long as its characteristic features are considered. Thus, the HCU is a feasible device for future space experiments.