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Bone loss prevention experiment on the last space shuttle flight
Date:7/5/2011

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. Researchers in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/North Carolina State University Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering will be at the Kennedy Space Center for the last space shuttle launch of the NASA program as Atlantis departs for its final mission into Earth's orbit.

With July 8, 2011 as the target launch date, the UNC/NCSU team led by Ted Bateman, PhD, associate professor in the department, have painstakingly prepared an experiment aboard Atlantis aimed at revealing strategies to protect future astronauts from bone loss during extended exposure to micro-gravity.

Not only is this a milestone in the history of space exploration, but also for Bateman who, along with his collaborators at the BioServe Space Technologies Center with the University of Colorado, has been involved as an investigator in numerous spaceflight studies. Once again he and his team have another research project on this, the final mission of STS-135.

In addition to the human crew of this historic 12-day flight, Atlantis will be host to thirty of its smallest passengers mice that might help humans one day travel far beyond the moon. These mice are integral to Bateman's research on bone and muscle health in microgravity.

Rapid bone loss, an accelerated osteoporosis, results from removing gravitational loading. Such exposure will be unavoidable for interplanetary missions such as a round-trip to Mars, explains Bateman. "We've known for quite a while, since the 1970s and the Skylab missions, that astronauts are going to lose bone on these extended missions," Bateman says. "Comprehensive work has been done to identify the amount of loss about one to two percent per month, which is approximately five times the rate that postmenopausal women lose bone here on Earth.

"And we know that this will cause a decline in bone strength of approximately three percent per month. When astronauts return, the recovery is incompl
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Contact: Les Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-966-9366
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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