Characterization of the Bone Loss and Recovery Response at the Distal Femur Metaphysis of the Adult Male Hindlimb Unloaded Rat
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Extended periods of mechanical unloading are known to be detrimental to bone health. Astronauts who spend months in microgravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are at particular risk. It is anticipated that NASA will not drastically increase the size of the astronaut corps, and this will mean increased likelihood of repeat missions for more astronauts. Thus, it is important to better understand the effects that prolonged, multiple bouts of unloading have on bone. This study utilized the hindlimb unloaded (HU) rat model to examine bone loss and recovery for single and double unloading bouts. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (6 months old) were randomized into the following groups: baseline (sacrificed at 6 months), 1HU7 (unloaded for 1 month, weight-bearing recovery for 3 months), 2HU10 (unloaded for 1 month, recovered for 2 months, unloaded for another month, and then recovered 2 months), 1HU10 (normal cage activity until 1 month HU ending at month 10, 2 month recovery followed), and aging controls (remained ambulatory throughout experiment). Every month (28 days), animals were terminated and the left femurs were excised, resulting in n=15 per group for each time point. Mineral and geometric properties were measured using peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) at the distal femur metaphysis, and quasi-static reduced platen compression (RPC) was used to estimate the mechanical properties of cancellous bone. Strength indices based on pQCT parameters were calculated as predictors of mechanical properties. Bone mass properties decreased due to HU and recovered within 2-3 months post-HU. A combination of increased periosteal apposition and endocortical resorption also occurred during HU. The initial HU bout suppressed normal age-related increases in mechanical properties and recovered within 1-2 months. Cancellous compressive strength index (CSI) most closely matched changes in mechanical properties. A second HU bout after two months recovery had a less detrimental effect on pQCT parameters but a greater negative impact on mechanical properties, when compared to pre-HU values. The opposite is true for mechanical properties if loss is characterized relative to aging controls. Recovery after the second HU period did not appear to be significantly affected by a previous bout of HU.
reduced platen compression
Davis, Joshua Morgan (2011). Characterization of the Bone Loss and Recovery Response at the Distal Femur Metaphysis of the Adult Male Hindlimb Unloaded Rat. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from