Astronauts Struggle to Regain Bone Density After Space Travel

Astronauts lose a long time’ value of bone mass in area that many don’t get well even after a yr again on Earth, researchers stated on Thursday, warning that it could possibly be a “big concern” for future missions to Mars.

Earlier analysis has proven astronauts lose between one to two p.c of bone density for each month spent in area, as the dearth of gravity takes the strain off their legs when it comes to standing and strolling.

To learn how astronauts get well as soon as their ft are again on the bottom, a brand new examine scanned the wrists and ankles of 17 astronauts earlier than, throughout and after a keep on the International Space Station.

The bone density misplaced by astronauts was equal to how a lot they’d shed in a number of a long time in the event that they have been again on Earth, stated study co-author Steven Boyd of Canada’s College of Calgary and director of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Well being.

The researchers discovered that the shinbone density of 9 of the astronauts had not totally recovered after a yr on Earth — and have been nonetheless missing round a decade’s value of bone mass.

The astronauts who went on the longest missions, which ranged from 4 to seven months on the ISS, have been the slowest to get well.

“The longer you spend in space, the more bone you lose,” Boyd instructed AFP.

Boyd stated it’s a “big concern” for deliberate for future missions to Mars, which may see astronauts spend years in space.

“Will it continue to get worse over time or not? We don’t know,” he stated.

“It’s possible we hit a steady state after a while, or it’s possible that we continue to lose bone. But I can’t imagine that we’d continue to lose it until there’s nothing left.”

A 2020 modelling examine predicted that over a three-year spaceflight to Mars, 33 p.c of astronauts could be liable to osteoporosis.

Boyd stated some solutions may come from analysis presently being carried out on astronauts who spent a minimum of a yr onboard the ISS.

Guillemette Gauquelin-Koch, the top of medication analysis at France’s CNES area company, stated that the weightlessness skilled in area is “most drastic physical inactivity there is”.

“Even with two hours of sport a day, it is like you are bedridden for the other 22 hours,” stated the physician, who was not a part of the examine.

“It will not be easy for the crew to set foot on Martian soil when they arrive — it’s very disabling.”

The silent illness

The brand new examine, which was printed in Scientific Studies, additionally confirmed how spaceflight alters the construction of bones themselves.

Boyd stated that if you happen to considered a physique’s bones just like the Eiffel Tower, it will as if a few of the connecting metallic rods that maintain the construction up have been misplaced.

“And when we return to Earth, we thicken up what’s remaining, but we don’t actually create new rods,” he stated.

Some workout routines are higher for retaining bone mass than others, the examine discovered.

Deadlifting proved considerably simpler than working or biking, it stated, suggesting extra heavy lower-body workout routines sooner or later.

However the astronauts — who’re principally match and of their 40s — didn’t have a tendency to discover the drastic bone loss, Boyd stated, mentioning that the Earth-bound equal osteoporosis is named “the silent disease”.

Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk, who has spent essentially the most time in area, stated that for him bones and muscle mass took the longest to get well after spaceflight.

“But within a day of landing, I felt comfortable again as an Earthling,” he stated in a press release accompanying the analysis.

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