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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2002 Apr;92(4):1367-77.

Hindlimb unloading rodent model: technical aspects.

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  • 1Life Sciences Division, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 94035-1000, USA.


Since its inception at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center in the mid-1970s, many laboratories around the world have used the rat hindlimb unloading model to simulate weightlessness and to study various aspects of musculoskeletal loading. In this model, the hindlimbs of rodents are elevated to produce a 30 degrees head-down tilt, which results in a cephalad fluid shift and avoids weightbearing by the hindquarters. Although several reviews have described scientific results obtained with this model, this is the first review to focus on the technical aspects of hindlimb unloading. This review includes a history of the technique, a brief comparison with spaceflight data, technical details, extension of the model to mice, and other important technical considerations (e.g., housing, room temperature, unloading angle, the potential need for multiple control groups, age, body weight, the use of the forelimb tissues as internal controls, and when to remove animals from experiments). This paper is intended as a reference for researchers, reviewers of manuscripts, and institutional animal care and use committees. Over 800 references, related to the hindlimb unloading model, can be accessed via the electronic version of this article.

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