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Using fish to study bone loss in weightlessness

A Japanese experiment on ISS, comparing the development of fish in weightlessness with those on the ground, has provided` scientists more information about bone density loss in weightlessness.

Akira Kudo at Tokyo Institute of Technology, together with scientists across Japan, have shown that medaka fish reared on the International Space Station for 56 days experienced increased osteoclast activity – bone cells involved in the re-absorption of bone tissue – likely leading to a subsequent reduction of bone density. They also found several genes that were upregulated in the fish during the space mission. The team generated fish with osteoclasts that emit a fluorescent signal. They sent 24 fish into space as juveniles, and monitored their development for 56 days under microgravity. The results were compared with a fish control group kept on Earth.

Kudo and his team found that bone mineral density in the pharyngeal bone (the jaw bone at the back of the throat) and the teeth of the fish reduced significantly, with decreased calcification by day 56 compared with the control group. This thinning of bone was accompanied by an increase in the volume and activity of osteoclasts. The team conducted whole transcriptome analysis of the fish jaws, and uncovered two strongly upregulated genes (fkbp5 and ddit4), together with 15 other mitochondria-related genes whose expression was also enhanced. Reduced movement under microgravity also has an influence. The fish began to exhibit unusual behavior towards the latter stages of their stay in space, showing motionless at day 47.

What the data mostly confirms is that long-term weightlessness is a bad thing for the development of bones, and not just in humans. Whether scientists can use these results to counter these harmful effects is not clear, however.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

2 comments

  • DougSpace

    We should do no more of these studies until we conduct a tether and spin-up experiment. If successful, this experiment might, to a large degree negate the innumerable studies of the negative health effects of zero-gee.

  • PeterF

    Bone loss for humans who plan to return to a 1G environment is a problem. We will have to devise a solution or a work-around to overcome it. I prefer to look at all new extraterrestrial knowledge through rose colored serendipity glasses.

    The million dollar question is:

    Can boneless fish be bred in microgravity?

    What a great source of protein for exploration expeditions as well as the inevitable asteroid miners!

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