Astronaut study reveals effects of space travel on human bones

Bone loss after space flight

Researchers gathered fresh information on bone loss brought on by microgravity in astronauts. A thorough understanding of the consequences of space flight on the human body and how to mitigate them is being provided by a study of bone loss in 17 astronauts who traveled aboard the International Space Station. This knowledge is essential in advance of potential ambitious future missions.

The study gathered new information on the extent to which bone mineral density can be recovered on Earth and the bone loss in astronauts brought on by the microgravity of space. It involved 14 male and three female astronauts, with an average age of 47, who spent between four and seven months in space on missions that lasted, on average, roughly five and a half months.

Bone loss after space flightAn average of 2.1 percent less bone mineral density and 1.3 percent less bone strength could be seen in the tibia, one of the lower leg's bones, a year after astronauts returned to Earth.

Nine had a persistent reduction in bone mineral density that did not improve after the space mission.

“We are aware that long-duration spaceflight causes bone loss in astronauts. Leigh Gabel, a professor of exercise science at the University of Calgary, is the lead author of the study, which was published this week in the journal Scientific Reports. “What's novel about this study is that we followed astronauts for a year after their space travel to understand if and how bone recovers,” she said.

During their six-month space missions, astronauts “had a severe bone loss—a loss that we would expect to see in older adults —and they only recovered about half of that loss after one year back on Earth,” Gabel said.

Because bones that normally support weight on Earth do not do so in space, bone loss happens. According to Gabel, space agencies will need to increase nutrition and training regimens to help stop bone loss.

“Fine bone structures thin during spaceflight, and finally some of the bone rods separate from one another. The astronaut's overall bone structure is permanently altered, Gabel said. “Once the astronaut returns to Earth, the remaining bone connections can thicken and strengthen, but the ones that severed in space can't be repaired. They were from the US space agency NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, though the report did not specify their countries.

According to the study, lengthier space missions led to more bone loss and a decreased chance of bone regeneration. Resistance training performed on the space station during flight proved crucial for halting the loss of muscle and bone mass.

It was discovered that astronauts who performed more deadlifts during a trip than they typically would on Earth were more likely to recover the bone. We sincerely hope that bone loss will eventually level on longer missions and stop, but we are unsure.


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