The rat has been used extensively as an animal model to study the effects of spaceflight on bone metabolism. The results of these studies have been inconsistent. On some missions, bone formation at the periosteal bone surface of weight-bearing bones is impaired and on others it is not, suggesting that experimental conditions may be an important determinant of bone responsiveness to spaceflight. To determine whether animal housing can affect the response of bone to spaceflight, we studied young growing (juvenile) rats group housed in the animal enclosure module and singly housed in the research animal holding facility under otherwise identical flight conditions (Spacelab Life Science 1). Spaceflight reduced periosteal bone formation by 30% (P < 0.001) and bone mass by 7% in single-housed animals but had little or no effect on formation (6%) or mass (3%) in group-housed animals. Group housing reduced the response of bone to spaceflight by as much as 80%. The data suggest that housing can dramatically affect the skeletal response of juvenile rats to spaceflight. These observations explain many of the discrepancies in previous flight studies and emphasize the need to study more closely the effects of housing (physical-social interaction) on the response of bone to the weightlessness of spaceflight.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)