Astronauts traveling beyond low Earth orbit will be exposed to galactic cosmic radiation (GCR); understanding how high energy ionizing radiation modifies the bone response to mechanical unloading is important to assuring crew health. To investigate this, we exposed 4-mo-old female Balb/cBYJ mice to an acute space-relevant dose of 0.5 Gy 56Fe or sham (n = ~8/group); 4 days later, half of the mice were also subjected to a ground-based analog for 1/6 g (partial weightbearing) (G/6) for 21 days. Microcomputed tomography (µ-CT) of the distal femur reveals that 56Fe exposure resulted in 65–78% greater volume and improved microarchitecture of cancellous bone after 21 d compared to sham controls. Radiation also leads to significant increases in three measures of energy absorption at the mid-shaft femur and an increase in stiffness of the L4 vertebra. No significant effects of radiation on bone formation indices are detected; however, G/6 leads to reduced % mineralizing surface on the inner mid-tibial bone surface. In separate groups allowed 21 days of weightbearing recovery from G/6 and/or 56Fe exposure, radiation-exposed mice still exhibit greater bone mass and improved microarchitecture vs. sham control. However, femoral bone energy absorption values are no longer higher in the 56Fe-exposed WB mice vs. sham controls. We provide evidence for persistent positive impacts of high-LET radiation exposure preceding a period of full or partial weightbearing on bone mass and microarchitecture in the distal femur and, for full weightbearing mice only and more transiently, cortical bone energy absorption values.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Materials Science (miscellaneous)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science