The current state of bone loss research: Data from spaceflight and microgravity simulators



Bone loss is a well documented phenomenon occurring in humans both in short- and in long-term spaceflights. This phenomenon can be also reproduced on the ground in human and animals and also modeled in cell-based analogs. Since space flights are infrequent and expensive to study the biomedical effects of microgravity on the human body, much of the known pathology of bone loss comes from experimental studies. The most commonly used in vitro simulators of microgravity are clinostats while in vivo simulators include the bed rest studies in humans and hindlimb unloading experiments in animals. Despite the numerous reports that have documented bone loss in wide ranges in multiple crew members, the pathology remains a key concern and development of effective countermeasures is still a major task. Thus far, the offered modalities have not shown much success in preventing or alleviating bone loss in astronauts and cosmonauts. The objective of this review is to capture the most recent research on bone loss from spaceflights, bed rest and hindlimb unloading, and in vitro studies utilizing cellular models in clinostats. Additionally, this review offers projections on where the research has to focus to ensure the most rapid development of effective countermeasures. J. Cell. Biochem. 114: 1001–1008, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.