Prolonged microgravity exposure disrupts bone, muscle, and cardiovascular homeostasis, sensory-motor coordination, immune function, and behavioral performance. Bone loss, in particular, remains a serious impediment to the success of exploration-class missions by increasing the risks of bone fracture and renal stone formation for crew members. Current countermeasures, consisting primarily of resistive and aerobic exercise, have not yet proven fully successful for preventing bone loss during long-duration spaceflight. While other bone-specific countermeasures, such as pharmacological therapy and dietary modifications, are under consideration, countermeasure approaches that simultaneously address multiple physiologic systems may be more desirable for exploration-class missions, particularly if they can provide effective protection at reduced mission resource requirements (up-mass, power, crew time, etc). The most robust of the multi-system approaches under consideration, artificial gravity (AG), could prevent all of the microgravity-related physiological changes from occurring. The potential methods for realizing an artificial gravity countermeasure are reviewed, as well as selected animal and human studies evaluating the effects of artificial gravity on bone function. Future plans for the study of the multi-system effects of artificial gravity include a joint, cooperative international effort that will systematically seek an optimal prescription for intermittent AG to preserve bone, muscle, and cardiovascular function in human subjects deconditioned by 6 degree head-down-tilt-bed rest. It is concluded that AG has great promise as a multi-system countermeasure, but that further research is required to determine the appropriate parameters for implementation of such a countermeasure for exploration-class missions.
Bone Loss During Space Flight; 23-24 Jun. 2005; Cleveland, OH; United States