Bones In Space Essay Research Paper Your

Bones In Space Essay, Research Paper ============================================================================== Your Bones in Space ASTRONOMY AND SPACE SCIENCE

Bones In Space Essay, Research Paper




Hypogravitational Osteoporosis: A review of literature.

By Lambert Titus Parker. May 19 1987.

Osteoporosis: a condition characterized by an absolute decrease in the

amount of bone present to a level below which it is capable of maintaining

the structural integrity of the skeleton.

To state the obvious, Human beings have evolved under Earth’s gravity

“1G”. Our musculoskeleton system have developed to help us navigate in

this gravitational field, endowed with ability to adapt as needed under

various stress, strains and available energy requirement. The system

consists of Bone a highly specialized and dynamic supporting tissue which

provides the vertebrates its rigid infrastructure. It consists of specialized

connective tissue cells called osteocytes and a matrix consisting of

organic fibers held together by an organic cement which gives bone its

tenacity, elasticity and its resilience. It also has an inorganic component

located in the cement between the fibers consisting of calcium phosphate

[85%]; Calcium carbonate [10%] ; others [5%] which give it the hardness

and rigidity. Other than providing the rigid infrastructure, it protects

vital organs like the brain], serves as a complex lever system, acts as a

storage area for calcium which is vital for human metabolism, houses the

bone marrow within its mid cavity and to top it all it is capable of changing

its architecture and mass in response to outside and inner stress. It

is this dynamic remodeling of bone which is of primary interest in microgravity.

To feel the impact of this dynamicity it should be noted that a bone

remodeling unit [a coupled phenomena of bone reabsorption and bone formation]

is initiated and another finished about every ten seconds in a healthy

adult. This dynamic system responds to mechanical stress or lack of it

by increasing the bone mass/density or decreasing it as per the demand

on the system. -eg; a person dealing with increased mechanical stress

will respond with increased mass / density of the bone and a person who

leads a sedentary life will have decreased mass/density of bone but the right

amount to support his structure against the mechanical stresses she/she

exists in. Hormones also play a major role as seen in postmenopausal

females osteoporosis (lack of estrogens) in which the rate of bone reformation

is usually normal with the rate of bone re-absorption increased.

In Skeletal system whose mass represent a dynamic homeostasis in 1g weight-

bearing,when placed in microgravity for any extended period of time requiring

practically no weight bearing, the regulatory system of bone/calcium

reacts by decreasing its mass. After all, why carry all that extra mass

and use all that energy to maintain what is not needed? Logically the

greatest loss -demineralization- occurs in the weight bearing bones of

the leg [Os Calcis] and spine. Bone loss has been estimated by calcium-balance

studies and excretion studies. An increased urinary excretion of calcium

, hydroxyproline & phosphorus has been noted in the first 8 to 10 days

of microgravity suggestive of increased bone re-absorption. Rapid increase

of urinary calcium has been noted after takeoff with a plateau reached

by day 30. In contrast, there was a steady increase off mean fecal calcium

throughout the stay in microgravity and was not reduced until day 20 of

return to 1 G while urinary calcium content usually returned to preflight

level by day 10 of return to 1G.

There is also significant evidence derived primarily from rodent studies that

seem to suggest decreased bone formation as a factor in hypogravitational

osteoporosis. Boy Frame,M.D a member of NASA’s LifeScience Advisory Committee

[LSAC] postulated that “the initial pathologic event after the astronauts

enter zero gravity occurs in the bone itself, and that changes in mineral

homeostasis and the calcitropic hormones are secondary to this. It appears

that zero gravity in some ways stimulate bone re-absorption, possibly through

altered bioelectrical fields or altered distribution of tension and pressure

on bone cells themselves. It is possible that gravitational and muscular

strains on the skeletal system cause friction between bone crystals

which creates bioelectrical fields. This bioelectrical effect in some

way may stimulate bone cells and affect bone remodeling.” In the early

missions, X-ray densitometry was used to measure the weight-bearing bones

pre & post flight. In the later Apollo, Skylab and Spacelab missions Photon

absorptiometry (a more sensitive indicator of bone mineral content) was

utilized. The results of these studies indicated that bone mass [mineral

content] was in the range of 3.2% to 8% on flight longer than two weeks

and varying directly with the length of the stay in microgravity. The

accuracy of these measurements have been questioned since the margin

of error for these measurements is 3 to 7% a range being close to the

estimated bone loss.

Whatever the mechanism of Hypogravitational Osteoporosis, it is one of

the more serious biomedical hazard of prolonged stay in microgravity.

Many forms of weight loading exercises have been tried by the astronauts

& cosmonauts to reduce the space related osteoporosis. Although isometric

exercises have not been effective, use of Bungee space suit have shown

some results. However use of Bungee space suit [made in such a way that

everybody motion is resisted by springs and elastic bands inducing stress

and strain on muscles and skeletal system] for 6 to 8 hrs a day necessary

to achieve the desired effect are cumbersome and require significant workload and

reduces efficiency thereby impractical for long term use other than proving

a theoretical principle in preventing hypogravitational osteoporosis.

Skylab experience has shown us that in spite of space related osteoporosis

humans can function in microgravity for six to nine months and return

to earth’s gravity. However since adults may rebuild only two-third of

the skeletal mass lost, even 0.3 % of calcium loss per month though small

in relation to the total skeletal mass becomes significant when Mars mission

of 18 months is contemplated. Since adults may rebuild only two-thirds

of the skeletal mass lost in microgravity, even short durations can cause

additive effects. This problem becomes even greater in females who are

already prone to hormonal osteoporosis on Earth.

So far several studies are under way with no significant results. Much

study has yet to be done and multiple experiments were scheduled on the

Spacelab Life Science [SLS] shuttle missions prior to the Challenger

tragedy. Members of LSAC had recommended that bone biopsies need to be

performed for essential studies of bone histomorphometric changes to

understand hypogravitational osteoporosis. In the past, astronauts with

the Right Stuff had been resistant and distrustful of medical experiments

but with scientific personnel with life science training we should be

able to obtain valid hard data. [It is of interest that in the SLS mission,

two of the mission specialists were to have been physicians, one physiologist

and one veterinarian.]

After all is said, the problem is easily resolved by creation of artificial

gravity in rotating structures. However if the structure is not large

enough the problem of Coriolis effect must be faced. To put the problem

of space related osteoporosis in perspective we should review our definition

of Osteoporosis: a condition characterized by an absolute decrease in the

amount of bone present to a level below which it is capable of maintaining the

structural integrity of the skeleton. In microgravity where locomotion

consists mostly of swimming actions with stress being exerted on upper

extremities than lower limbs resulting in reduction of weight bearing

bones of lower extremities and spine which are NOT needed for maintaining

the structural integrity of the skeleton. So in microgravity the skeletal

system adapts in a marvelous manner and problem arises only when this

microgravity adapted person need to return to higher gravitational field.

So the problem is really a problem of re-adaptation to Earth’s gravity.

To the groups wanting to justify space related research: Medical expense

due to osteoporosis in elderly women is close to 4 billion dollars a

year and significant work in this field alone could justify all space life

science work. It is the opinion of many the problem of osteoporosis on earth

and hypogravity will be solved or contained, and once large rotating

structures are built the problem will become academic. For completeness

sake: Dr. Graveline, at the School of Aerospace Medicine, raised a litter

of mice on a animal centrifuge simulating 2G and compared them with a

litter mates raised in 1G. “They were Herculean in their build, and unusually

strong….” reported Dr.Graveline. Also X-ray studies showed the 2G mice

to have a skeletal density to be far greater than their 1G litter mates.