Spaceflight results in reduced mechanical loading of the skeleton, which leads to dramatic bone loss. Low bone mass is associated with increased fracture risk, and this combination may compromise future, long-term, spaceflight missions. Here, we examined the systemic effects of spaceflight and fracture surgery/healing on several non-injured bones within the axial and appendicular skeleton. Forty C57BL/6, male mice were randomized into the following groups: (1) Sham surgery mice housed on the earth (Ground + Sham); (2) Femoral segmental bone defect surgery mice housed on the earth (Ground + Surgery); (3) Sham surgery mice housed in spaceflight (Flight + Sham); and (4) Femoral segmental bone defect surgery mice housed in spaceflight (Flight + Surgery). Mice were 9 weeks old at the time of launch and were euthanized approximately 4 weeks after launch. Micro-computed tomography (μCT) was used to evaluate standard bone parameters in the tibia, humerus, sternebra, vertebrae, ribs, calvarium, mandible, and incisor. One intriguing finding was that both spaceflight and surgery resulted in virtually identical losses in tibial trabecular bone volume fraction, BV/TV (24–28% reduction). Another important finding was that surgery markedly changed tibial cortical bone geometry. Understanding how spaceflight, surgery, and their combination impact non-injured bones will improve treatment strategies for astronauts and terrestrial humans alike.
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