The HPL has been working with NASA since 1994 to understand how the body adapts to the microgravity environment of space, and the role that exercise can play in offsetting the negative effects. These studies have examined astronauts following a 17-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle (LMS), astronauts and cosmonauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) for 6 months, and continues today with crewmembers currently onboard ISS. The main focus of this research has been to conduct whole muscle and single muscle fiber contractile function measurements to better understand how muscle deteriorates in the microgravity environment and the specific exercise paradigm that could serve as a countermeasure to preserve human skeletal muscle mass and function for long duration space exploration.
Bed Rest and Ground-Based Investigations
In conjunction with our space flight studies, we have completed numerous studies using ground-based models of space flight, namely bed rest and unilateral lower limb suspension. These studies have followed volunteers during simulated space flight durations of 3, 12, 17, 21, 35, 60, and 90 days and have been completed in the HPL, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) facilities in California, ESA (European Space Agency) and CNES (French Space Agency) facilities in Toulouse, France, and in Stockholm, Sweden. The focus of this research is to complement our space flight studies and extend our understanding the muscle responses to disuse at the whole muscle and myofiber level, and the impact of specific exercise countermeasures. These studies continue today in conjunction with the NASA exercise countermeasures team at Johnson Space Center, with a long duration bed rest study examining the next generation exercise prescription that is being implemented on the ISS.
Both the space flight and ground-based research has the potential to contribute significantly to humans on Earth who become bed ridden due to injury or illness and the expanding aging population that is challenged with muscle weakness and late-life disability.