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Adv Space Biol Med. 2005;10:7-40.

The hindlimb unloading rat model: literature overview, technique update and comparison with space flight data.

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  • 1NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000, USA.


The hindlimb unloading rodent model is used extensively to study the response of many physiological systems to certain aspects of space flight, as well as to disuse and recovery from disuse for Earth benefits. This chapter describes the evolution of hindlimb unloading, and is divided into three sections. The first section examines the characteristics of 1064 articles using or reviewing the hindlimb unloading model, published between 1976 and April 1, 2004. The characteristics include number of publications, journals, countries, major physiological systems, method modifications, species, gender, genetic strains and ages of rodents, experiment duration, and countermeasures. The second section provides a comparison of results between space flown and hindlimb unloading animals from the 14-day Cosmos 2044 mission. The final section describes modifications to hindlimb unloading required by different experimental paradigms and a method to protect the tail harness for long duration studies. Hindlimb unloading in rodents has enabled improved understanding of the responses of the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, immune, renal, neural, metabolic, and reproductive systems to unloading and/or to reloading on Earth with implications for both long-duration human space flight and disuse on Earth.

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