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Skeletal Response to Simulated Microgravity Exposures and Exercise in the Adult Rat Model
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Mechanical unloading has deleterious effects on the musculoskeletal system and results in significant reductions in bone density, mass, and strength, which do not fully recover even years after returning to weightbearing. For example, the rate of bone loss in microgravity is 10-fold more rapid than the rate of loss seen in elderly Caucasian females, the population group most predisposed to osteoporosis. This raises concern with individuals who are exposed to multiple bed rest periods or crewmembers who make repeated missions. Exercise offers a way to reduce or reverse these effects. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) densitometry and bone mineral density (BMD) alone are generally insufficient for capturing the complex changes in bone mass, structure, and integrity and not an accurate predictor of fracture risk. Therefore, it is essential to measure the mechanical properties of bone tissue directly using animal models. The hindlimb unloaded (HU) rat model is a well-established ground-based analog for studying bone response to disuse and effects of spaceflight. The current study is one of the very few that has measured longitudinally densitometric and mechanical properties of bone after repeated simulated microgravity and long-term recovery at multiple anatomic sites in skeletally mature rats. The specific aims were to characterize 1) loss and recovery dynamics of bone following a period of unloading, 2) bone response after a second exposure to 28 days of HU, following an initial 28 days of HU and a recovery period equal to twice the duration of initial exposure, and 3) effects of resistance exercise during recovery period following an initial HU exposure and its effects on a subsequent exposure. In general, our data showed that bone response to unloading and recovery is site-specific. More specifically, we found that: 1) the rat proximal tibia metaphysis modeled the loss and discordant recovery dynamics as seen in the International Space Station (ISS) crewmembers proximal femur better than the rat femoral neck; 2) the initial exposure to HU has minimal effect on the subsequent HU exposure, and detrimental effects of the second HU exposure were milder than the initial due to reduced mechanosensitivity of the bone; 3) exercise significantly enhanced recovery following the initial HU exposure, and losses during the second exposure were not affected by exercise in most cases.
adult rat model
Shirazi-Fard, Yasaman (2013). Skeletal Response to Simulated Microgravity Exposures and Exercise in the Adult Rat Model. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from