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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Dec;95(6):2185-201.

Skeletal muscle unweighting: spaceflight and ground-based models.

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  • 1Department of Physiology & Biophysics, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-4560, USA.


Long-term manned spaceflight requires that flight crews be exposed to extended periods of unweighting of antigravity skeletal muscles. This exposure will result in adaptations in these muscles that have the potential to debilitate crew members on return to increased gravity environments. Therefore, the development of countermeasures to prevent these unwanted adaptations is an important requirement. The limited access to microgravity environments for the purpose of studying muscle adaptation and evaluating countermeasure programs has necessitated the use of ground-based models to conduct both basic and applied muscle physiology research. In this review, the published results from ground-based models of muscle unweighting are presented and compared with the results from related spaceflight research. The models of skeletal muscle unweighting with a sufficient body of literature included bed rest, cast immobilization, and unilateral lower limb suspension. Comparisons of changes in muscle strength and size between these models in the context of the limited results available from spaceflight suggest that each model may be useful for the investigation of certain aspects of the skeletal muscle unweighting that occur in microgravity.

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