Microgravity and Spaceflight: New Insights and Potential Defense Strategies

A special issue of Life (ISSN 2075-1729). This special issue belongs to the section "Astrobiology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (16 February 2024) | Viewed by 4455

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Guest Editor
Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, 00133 Rome, Italy
Interests: exercise; aging; whole body vibration; musculoskeletal diseases; osteoporosis; sarcopenia; neurodegeneration; quality of life; microgravity
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The conquest of the space environment, as well as the colonization of new planets, represents the future challenge facing humanity. However, exposure to real and simulated microgravity is known to cause several physiological alterations, including loss of bone and muscle mass, cognitive deficits, sleep and mood disturbances, as well as alterations in the immune system, making it necessary to deepen knowledge regarding biological responses to weightlessness. Therefore, the study of the underlying molecular mechanisms could be the cornerstone for space exploration and provide greater insight into the response of the human body in a gravity-free environment. For this reason, the use of instruments on Earth that reproduce the biological effects of microgravity to date represents an invaluable research strategy that can provide new scientific evidence on physiological adaptations to zero gravity. Indeed, numerous physiological changes induced by weightlessness, such as musculoskeletal and cognitive disorders, are also commonly found in individuals constrained to a sedentary lifestyle, suggesting the extraordinary power of physical activity in preventing such disorders.

Identifying potential strategies to counter the impact of spaceflight on human biology is a primary goal of research in this field, as it could provide valuable aid to space exploration. In addition, the discovery of innovative countermeasures could represent a turning point for the treatment of numerous conditions characterized by allurement and/or prolonged sedentariness, laying the foundation for the development of cutting-edge therapeutic approaches. Exercise, the use of antioxidants, as well as the administration of substances with osteo-inductive power, are just some of the options for defending against weightlessness that have been explored so far. More research effort is needed in order to identify effective and safe tools that can preserve physical structure and function in space.

Therefore, this special issue aims to gather recent scientific evidence regarding the effects of exposure to real and simulated microgravity and to identify potential innovative strategies to counteract the severe physiological alterations that characterize weightlessness, allurement, and prolonged sedentary living.

Dr. Ida Cariati
Dr. Virginia Tancredi
Guest Editors

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Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

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11 pages, 1216 KiB  
Article
The Oxidative Phosphorylation and Cytoskeleton Proteins of Mouse Ovaries after 96 Hours of Hindlimb Suspension
by Elena Yu. Gorbacheva, Maria A. Sventitskaya, Nikolay S. Biryukov and Irina V. Ogneva
Life 2023, 13(12), 2332; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13122332 - 12 Dec 2023
Viewed by 745
Abstract
The purpose of this study was to assess oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) in mouse ovaries, determine the relative content of proteins that form the respiratory chain complexes and the main structures of the cytoskeleton, and determine the mRNA of the corresponding genes after hindlimb [...] Read more.
The purpose of this study was to assess oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) in mouse ovaries, determine the relative content of proteins that form the respiratory chain complexes and the main structures of the cytoskeleton, and determine the mRNA of the corresponding genes after hindlimb suspension for 96 h. After hindlimb suspension, the maximum rate of oxygen uptake increased by 133% (p < 0.05) compared to the control due to the complex I of the respiratory chain. The content of mRNA of genes encoding the main components of the respiratory chain increased (cyt c by 78%, cox IV by 56%, ATPase by 69%, p < 0.05 compared with the control). The relative content of cytoskeletal proteins that can participate in the processes of transport and localization of mitochondria does not change, with the exception of an increase in the content of alpha-tubulin by 25% (p < 0.05) and its acetylated isoform (by 36%, p < 0.05); however, the mRNA content of these cytoskeletal genes did not differ from the control. The content of GDF9 mRNA does not change after hindlimb suspension. The data obtained show that short-term exposure to simulated weightlessness leads to intensification of metabolism in the ovaries. Full article
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Review

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19 pages, 1843 KiB  
Review
Microgravity and Musculoskeletal Health: What Strategies Should Be Used for a Great Challenge?
by Roberto Bonanni, Ida Cariati, Mario Marini, Umberto Tarantino and Virginia Tancredi
Life 2023, 13(7), 1423; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13071423 - 21 Jun 2023
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2404
Abstract
Space colonization represents the most insidious challenge for mankind, as numerous obstacles affect the success of space missions. Specifically, the absence of gravitational forces leads to systemic physiological alterations, with particular emphasis on the musculoskeletal system. Indeed, astronauts exposed to spaceflight are known [...] Read more.
Space colonization represents the most insidious challenge for mankind, as numerous obstacles affect the success of space missions. Specifically, the absence of gravitational forces leads to systemic physiological alterations, with particular emphasis on the musculoskeletal system. Indeed, astronauts exposed to spaceflight are known to report a significant impairment of bone microarchitecture and muscle mass, conditions clinically defined as osteoporosis and sarcopenia. In this context, space medicine assumes a crucial position, as the development of strategies to prevent and/or counteract weightlessness-induced alterations appears to be necessary. Furthermore, the opportunity to study the biological effects induced by weightlessness could provide valuable information regarding adaptations to spaceflight and suggest potential treatments that can preserve musculoskeletal health under microgravity conditions. Noteworthy, improving knowledge about the latest scientific findings in this field of research is crucial, as is thoroughly investigating the mechanisms underlying biological adaptations to microgravity and searching for innovative solutions to counter spaceflight-induced damage. Therefore, this narrative study review, performed using the MEDLINE and Google Scholar databases, aims to summarize the most recent evidence regarding the effects of real and simulated microgravity on the musculoskeletal system and to discuss the effectiveness of the main defence strategies used in both real and experimental settings. Full article
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Other

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9 pages, 1022 KiB  
Brief Report
Omega-3-Enriched Diet Improves Metabolic Profile in Prdx6-Deficient Mice Exposed to Microgravity
by Francesca Pacifici, Aikaterini Andreadi, Roberto Arriga, Donatella Pastore, Barbara Capuani, Roberto Bonanni, David Della-Morte, Alfonso Bellia, Davide Lauro and Giulia Donadel
Life 2023, 13(12), 2245; https://doi.org/10.3390/life13122245 - 22 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 739
Abstract
Background: Space travel has always been one of mankind’s greatest dreams. Thanks to technological innovation, this dream is becoming more of a reality. Soon, humans (not only astronauts) will travel, live, and work in space. However, a microgravity environment can induce several pathological [...] Read more.
Background: Space travel has always been one of mankind’s greatest dreams. Thanks to technological innovation, this dream is becoming more of a reality. Soon, humans (not only astronauts) will travel, live, and work in space. However, a microgravity environment can induce several pathological alterations that should be, at least in part, controlled and alleviated. Among those, glucose homeostasis impairment and insulin resistance occur, which can lead to reduced muscle mass and liver dysfunctions. Thus, it is relevant to shed light on the mechanism underlaying these pathological conditions, also considering a nutritional approach that can mitigate these effects. Methods: To achieve this goal, we used Prdx6−/− mice exposed to Hindlimb Unloading (HU), a well-established experimental protocol to simulate microgravity, fed with a chow diet or an omega-3-enriched diet. Results: Our results innovatively demonstrated that HU-induced metabolic alterations, mainly related to glucose metabolism, may be mitigated by the administration of omega-3-enriched diet. Specifically, a significant improvement in insulin resistance has been reported. Conclusions: Although preliminary, our results highlight the importance of specific nutritional approaches that can alleviate microgravity-induced harmful effects. These findings should be considered soon by those planning trips around the earth. Full article
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