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Experiment aboard shuttle Atlantis will test novel therapy to build bone during space travel
Date:7/6/2011

BOSTON Astronauts lose a significant amount of bone mass during space travel and with long duration flights there is concern that this bone loss could lead to an increased risk of fractures. When the final mission of NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle program is launched on July 8, an animal experiment to test a novel therapy to increase bone mass will be on board.

Led by a consortium of scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Amgen, Inc., UCB, BioServe Space Technologies and the University of North Carolina, and funded by NASA's Ames Research Center, the research will not only address a serious problem that affects astronauts who spend weeks and months in a low-gravity environment, but may also yield novel insights into the prevention and treatment of skeletal fragility among patients on earth who are less active due to aging or illness.

"Mechanical loading is required to maintain musculoskeletal health," explains Co-Principal Investigator Mary Bouxsein, PhD, a scientist in BIDMC's Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

"On earth, our bones experience mechanical forces from being pushed and pulled by muscles that work against gravity to keep us upright and moving around, as well as from the impact of our body weight against the ground," she explains. "These forces are much lower in micro-gravity environments and, as a result, the rate of bone loss among astronauts is about 10 times greater than that seen in postmenopausal women. So, while this research is designed to better understand and prevent skeletal fragility among astronauts, it may also tell us a great deal about the future potential of this novel therapy to improve bone strength here on earth, in both older persons and in individuals with reduced physical activity due to various clinical conditions, such as stroke, spinal cord injury or cerebral palsy."

NASA's Commercial Bio
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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