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Maintaining Muscle Mass in Space

Author(s): Kenneth M. Baldwin, PhD


First, we will provide fundamental information about how the musculoskeletal system evolved over millions of years to enable organisms to perform a wide variety of movement tasks. We will explore the key structural and functional capabilities of specific types of muscle fiber, as well as these fibers’ unique sub-cellular structures that allow them to perform activities of different skill and intensity. Next, we will attempt to understand why gravity is so important to the muscle system’s structural and functional integrity, and why muscle breaks down, or atrophies, when gravitational forces are eliminated. Then, we will examine the daunting task of designing a strategy to prevent such atrophy and discuss the progress that scientists and pragmatists have had in correcting the problem. Finally, we will try to translate some of what we have learned while working on the problem of muscle atrophy to the practical situation of enabling individuals to lead healthier and more productive lives on Earth.

Before we embark on this journey, ask yourself, “What is gravity? Is our health dependent on it?”

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Space Biomedical Research Institute

National Space Biomedical Research Institute

This work was supported by National Space Biomedical Research Institute through NASA cooperative agreement NCC 9-58.