Category Archives: Spaceflight

Iron Increase Associated with Decreased Bone Density During Spaceflight


Iron status and its relations with oxidative damage and bone loss during long-duration space flight on the International Space Station.

Increases in stored iron and dietary intake of iron during space flight have raised concern about the risk of excess iron and oxidative damage, particularly in bone.
The objectives of this study were to perform a comprehensive assessment of iron status in men and women before, during, and after long-duration space flight and to quantify the association of iron status with oxidative damage and bone loss.
Fasting blood and 24-h urine samples were collected from 23 crew members before, during, and after missions lasting 50 to 247 d to the International Space Station.
Serum ferritin and body iron increased early in flight, and transferrin and transferrin receptors decreased later, which indicated that early increases in body iron stores occurred through the mobilization of iron to storage tissues. Acute phase proteins indicated no evidence of an inflammatory response during flight. Serum ferritin was positively correlated with the oxidative damage markers 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine (r = 0.53, P < 0.001) and prostaglandin F2α (r = 0.26, P < 0.001), and the greater the area under the curve for ferritin during flight, the greater the decrease in bone mineral density in the total hip (P = 0.031), trochanter (P = 0.006), hip neck (P = 0.044), and pelvis (P = 0.049) after flight.
Increased iron stores may be a risk factor for oxidative damage and bone resorption.

Zwart SR, Morgan JL, Smith SM
Am. J. Clin. Nutr. Jul 2013
PMID: 23719548

Alendronate + Exercise Prevents All Bone Loss During Spaceflight


Bisphosphonates as a supplement to exercise to protect bone during long-duration spaceflight.

We report the results of alendronate ingestion plus exercise in preventing the declines in bone mass and strength and elevated levels of urinary calcium and bone resorption in astronauts during 5.5 months of spaceflight.
This investigation was an international collaboration between NASA and the JAXA space agencies to investigate the potential value of antiresorptive agents to mitigate the well-established bone changes associated with long-duration spaceflight.
We report the results from seven International Space Station (ISS) astronauts who spent a mean of 5.5 months on the ISS and who took an oral dose of 70 mg of alendronate weekly starting 3 weeks before flight and continuing throughout the mission. All crewmembers had available for exercise a treadmill, cycle ergometer, and a resistance exercise device. Our assessment included densitometry of multiple bone regions using X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) and quantitative computed tomography (QCT) and assays of biomarkers of bone metabolism.
In addition to pre- and post-flight measurements, we compared our results to 18 astronauts who flew ISS missions and who exercised using an early model resistance exercise device, called the interim resistance exercise device, and to 11 ISS astronauts who exercised using the newer advanced resistance exercise device (ARED). Our findings indicate that the ARED provided significant attenuation of bone loss compared with the older device although post-flight decreases in the femur neck and hip remained. The combination of the ARED and bisphosphonate attenuated the expected decline in essentially all indices of altered bone physiology during spaceflight including: DXA-determined losses in bone mineral density of the spine, hip, and pelvis, QCT-determined compartmental losses in trabecular and cortical bone mass in the hip, calculated measures of fall and stance computed bone strength of the hip, elevated levels of bone resorption markers, and urinary excretion of calcium.
The combination of exercise plus an antiresoptive drug may be useful for protecting bone health during long-duration spaceflight.

Leblanc A, Matsumoto T, Jones J, Shapiro J…
Osteoporos Int Jul 2013
PMID: 23334732

Resistance Exercise Prevents Bone Loss During Spaceflights


Benefits for bone from resistance exercise and nutrition in long-duration spaceflight: Evidence from biochemistry and densitometry.

Exercise has shown little success in mitigating bone loss from long-duration spaceflight. The first crews of the International Space Station (ISS) used the “interim resistive exercise device” (iRED), which allowed loads of up to 297 lb(f) (or 1337 N) but provided little protection of bone or no greater protection than aerobic exercise. In 2008, the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), which allowed absolute loads of up to 600 lb(f) (1675 N), was launched to the ISS. We report dietary intake, bone densitometry, and biochemical markers in 13 crewmembers on ISS missions from 2006 to 2009. Of these 13, 8 had access to the iRED and 5 had access to the ARED. In both groups, bone-specific alkaline phosphatase tended to increase during flight toward the end of the mission (p = 0.06) and increased 30 days after landing (p < 0.001). Most markers of bone resorption were also increased in both groups during flight and 30 days after landing (p < 0.05). Bone densitometry revealed significant interactions (time and exercise device) for pelvis bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (p < 0.01), hip femoral neck BMD (p < 0.05), trochanter BMD (p < 0.05), and total hip BMD (p < 0.05). These variables were unchanged from preflight only for ARED crewmembers, who also returned from flight with higher percent lean mass and lower percent fat mass. Body mass was unchanged after flight in both groups. All crewmembers had nominal vitamin D status (75 ± 17 nmol/L) before and during flight. These data document that resistance exercise, coupled with adequate energy intake (shown by maintenance of body mass determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry [DXA]) and vitamin D, can maintain bone in most regions during 4- to 6-month missions in microgravity. This is the first evidence that improving nutrition and resistance exercise during spaceflight can attenuate the expected BMD deficits previously observed after prolonged missions.

Smith SM, Heer MA, Shackelford LC, Sibonga JD…
J. Bone Miner. Res. Sep 2012
PMID: 22549960