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Bone. 1998 May;22(5 Suppl):79S-82S.

Medical baseline data collection on bone and muscle change with space flight.

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  • 1Space Utilization Promotion Department, National Space Development Agency of Japan, Tsukuba. miyamoto@med.nihon-u.ac.jp


It has been documented that astronauts suffer from a progressive and continuous negative calcium balance in space flight. The National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) discussed the experimental protocols with the National Aeronautics and Space Agency's (NASA's) Johnson Space Center (JSC) and has started a medical baseline collection on bone and calcium metabolism, and muscle changes with space flight. The subjects were two astronauts, a 42-year-old female and a 32-year-old male, who experienced real space flights. Fractional excretion of calcium (FECa) increased in both subjects just after the space flight. There was a negative calcium balance with urinary calcium leak even after a short flight. We also noticed a decrease (-3.0%) of bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar spine (L2-4), a weight bearing bone. These bone changes may be due to a negative calcium balance. However, the BMD of the skull, a nonweight bearing bone, increased after the flight. This indicates that the effect of weightlessness on bone is different in respective bones, depending on the weight loading. Our data of the bone metabolic marker clearly indicate that bone resorption is stimulated, shown by an elevation of urinary pyridinolinks and plasma tartrate-resistant acid phosphate (TRACP) activity. Bone specific alkaline phosphatase, a bone formation marker, was elevated in both subjects, but not intact osteocalcin. Whether this pathophysiological phenomenon is due to an accelerated bone resorption or suppressed bone formation is still obscure. In addition, the physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) of muscle in the legs greatly decreased (from - 10% to -15%) after the flight, and it took over a month to be recovered in both subjects. However, the muscle volume loss in the legs seemed to be reversible. To examine bone and muscle metabolism with space flight, further investigations and international standardization of experimental protocols are necessary.

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