Sustained weightlessness affects all body functions, among these also cardiac autonomic control mechanisms. How this may influence neural response to central stimulation by a mental arithmetic task remains an open question. The hypothesis was tested that microgravity alters cardiovascular neural response to standardized cognitive load stimuli. Beat-to-beat heart rate, brachial blood pressure, and respiratory frequency were collected in five astronauts, taking part in three different short-duration (10 to 11 days) space missions to the International Space Station. Data recording was performed in supine position 1 mo before launch; at days 5 or 8 in space; and on days 1, 4, and 25 after landing. Heart rate variability (HRV) parameters were obtained in the frequency domain. Measurements were performed in the control condition for 10 min and during a 5-min mental arithmetic stress task, consisting of deducting 17 from a four-digit number, read by a colleague, and orally announcing the result. Our results show that over all sessions (pre-, in-, and postflight), mental stress induced an average increase in mean heart rate (Δ7 ± 1 beats/min; P = 0.03) and mean arterial pressure (Δ7 ± 1 mmHg; P = 0.006). A sympathetic excitation during mental stress was shown from HRV parameters: increase of low frequency expressed in normalized units (Δ8.3 ± 1.4; P = 0.004) and low frequency/high frequency (Δ1.6 ± 0.3; P = 0.001) and decrease of high frequency expressed in normalized units (Δ8.9 ± 1.4; P = 0.004). The total power was not influenced by mental stress. No effect of spaceflight was found on baseline heart rate, mean arterial pressure, and HRV parameters. No differences in response to mental stress were found between pre-, in-, and postflight. Our findings confirm that a mental arithmetic task in astronauts elicits sympathovagal shifts toward enhanced sympathetic modulation and reduced vagal modulation. However, these responses are not changed in space during microgravity or after spaceflight.
Research Containing: Weightlessness
The five-year experience of experimentation in the autonomic regulation of blood circulation on board the International Space Station is presented. The heart rate variability (HRV) analysis was the basic methodical approach in these investigations. The probabilistic approach to the estimation of the risk of pathology under long-term spaceflight conditions based on HRV analysis is described. The individual type of autonomic regulation was taken into account in the analysis of the results of the investigations. The type of regulation inherent in every cosmonaut under the conditions of weightlessness has been shown to be retained during subsequent flights. New scientific data on the relationship between the character of the adaptive response of the body to spaceflight factors and the individual type of autonomic response have been obtained. Staying in weightlessness has been shown to be connected with the readjustment of regulatory systems and with transition to the zone of prenosological states. Adaptation responses in weightlessness are characterized by the increased tension of the regulatory systems and the preservation of sufficient functional reserves. The mobilization of additional resources is required after returning to earth, due to which the functional reserve of the mechanisms of regulation decreases. Cosmonauts with the vagotonic and normosympathotonic types of autonomic regulation appear to be the most resistant. The knowledge of the type of autonomic regulation allows us to judge the potential response of the cosmonaut to spaceflight factors. The likelihood estimates were calculated, and the risk categories were determined by the results of HRV analysis in the last months of the flight. Three pathology risk groups were identified. In conclusion, the theoretical and applied significance of the experiments was considered.
Effect of simulated weightlessness on osteoprogenitor cell number and proliferation in young and adult rats
Experiments with rats flown in space or hind limb unloaded (HU) indicate that bone loss in both conditions is associated with a decrease in bone volume and osteoblast surface in cancellous and cortical bone. We hypothesize that the decrease in osteoblastic bone formation and osteoblast surface is related to a decrease in the number of osteoprogenitors and/or decreased proliferation of their progeny. We tested this hypothesis by evaluating the effect of 14 days of HU on the number of osteoprogenitors (osteoblast colony forming units; CFU-O), fibroblastic colony forming units (CFU-F), and alkaline phosphatase-positive CFU (CFU-AP) in cell populations derived from the proximal femur (unloaded) and the proximal humerus (normally loaded) in 6-week-old and 6-month-old rats. To confirm the effect of unloading on bone volume and structure, static histomorphometric parameters were measured in the proximal tibial metaphysis. Effects of HU on proliferation of osteoprogenitors were evaluated by measuring the size of CFU-O. HU did not affect the total number of progenitors (CFU-F) in young or adult rats in any of the cell populations. In femoral populations of young rats, HU decreased CFU-O by 71.0% and mean colony size was reduced by 20%. HU decreased CFU-AP by 31.3%. As expected, no changes in CFU-O or CFU-AP were seen in cell populations from the humerus. In femoral cell populations of adult rats, HU decreased CFU-O and CFU-AP by 16.6% and 36.6%, respectively. Again, no effects were seen in cell populations from the humerus. In 6-week-old rats, there was a greater decrease in bone volume, osteoblast number, and osteoblast surface in the proximal tibial metaphysis than that observed in adult rats. Both trabecular thickness and trabecular number were decreased in young rats but remained unaffected in adults. Neither osteoclast number nor surface was affected by unloading. Our results show that the HU-induced decrease in the number of osteoprogenitors observed in vitro parallels the effects of HU on bone volume and osteoblast number in young and old rats in vivo, suggesting that the two may be interdependent. HU also reduced CFU-O colony size in femoral populations indicating a diminished proliferative capacity of osteoblastic colonies.
Observing the mouse thyroid sphingomyelin under space conditions: a case study from the MDS mission in comparison with hypergravity conditions
This is a case report of apparent thyroid structural and functional alteration in a single mouse subjected to low Earth orbit spaceflight for 91 days. Histological examination of the thyroid gland revealed an increase in the average follicle size compared to that of three control animals and three animals exposed to hypergravity (2g) conditions. Immunoblotting analysis detected an increase in two thyroid gland enzymes, sphingomyelinase and sphingomyelin-synthase1. In addition, sphingomyelinase, an enzyme confined to the cell nucleus in the control animals, was found in the mouse exposed to hypogravity to be homogeneously distributed throughout the cell bodies. It represents the first animal observation of the influence of weightlessness on sphingomyelin metabolism.
Microgravity and hypergravity effects on fertilization of the salamander Pleurodeles waltl (urodele amphibian)
Effects of microgravity (microG) on fertilization were studied in the urodele amphibian Pleurodeles waltl on board the MIR space station. Genetic and cytomorphologic analyses ruled out parthenogenesis or gynogenesis and proved that fertilization did occur in microG. Actual fertilization was demonstrated by the analysis of the distribution of peptidase-1 genes, a polymorphic sex-linked enzyme, in progenies obtained in microG. Further evidence of fertilization was provided by the presence of spermatozoa in the perivitelline space and in the fertilization layer of the microG eggs and by the presence of a female pronucleus and male pronuclei in the egg cytoplasm. Experiments in microG and in 1.4G, 2G, and 3G hypergravity showed for the first time that, compared to eggs in 1G, several characteristics of the fertilization process including the cortical reaction and the microvillus transformations were altered depending on the gravitational force applied to the eggs. Microvillus elevation, the most evident feature, was reduced on microG-eggs and amplified on eggs submitted to 2G and 3G. No lethal consequences of these alterations on the early development of microG-eggs were observed.