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Adv Space Res. 2003;32(8):1483-90. doi: 10.1016/S0273-1177(03)90385-1.

Studies toward birth and early mammalian development in space.

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Life Sciences Division, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA.


Sustaining life beyond Earth on either space stations or other planets will require a clear understanding of how the space environment affects key phases of mammalian reproduction and development. Pregnancy, parturition (birth) and the early development of offspring are complex processes essential for successful reproduction and the proliferation of mammalian species. While no mammal has yet undergone birth within the space environment, studies spanning the gravity continuum from 0- to 2-g are revealing startling insights into how reproduction and development may proceed under gravitational conditions deviating from those typically experienced on Earth. In this report, I review studies of pregnant Norway rats and their offspring flown in microgravity onboard the NASA Space Shuttle throughout the period corresponding to mid- to late gestation, and analogous studies of pregnant rats exposed to hypergravity (hg) onboard the NASA Ames Research Center 24-ft centrifuge. Studies of postnatal rats flown in space or exposed to centrifugation are reviewed. Although many important questions remain unanswered, the available data suggest that numerous aspects of pregnancy, birth and early mammalian development can proceed under altered gravity conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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