Nav: Home

$1 million grant from NASA funds research on astronauts' loss of muscle strength

March 31, 2016

A $1 million grant from NASA will allow researchers from the University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance to examine the changes in astronauts' muscle strength and function during extended space flights. Principal investigator Mitzi Laughlin says investigators want to know if the decline eventually levels off, a finding that would inform preparations for missions to Mars.

"The key point about this research is the theory that the loss of muscle strength eventually levels off," she said. "Do you level off early, then not as much or is it a slow decline? This will be key information as we plan to go to Mars because we need to know what condition the astronauts will be in once they get there." Mitzi Laughlin

The five -year grant will follow eight crew members before, during and after missions on the International Space Station, measuring their muscle strength at each point. Laughlin says crew members lose about 10 percent of muscle strength on typical missions (four to six months).

Laughlin will take pre-flight measurements of crew members' muscle strength and function. While astronauts are on board the Space Station, they'll use a device called the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System, or MARES. It looks like a large piece of exercise equipment you'd see in a gym and it's already on the Space Station. More advanced than equipment on earth, MARES can restrict movement so that specific muscle groups are isolated. Laughlin's research examines strength at the ankle and knee joints.

"The important piece that's different is the in-flight measurements; we've always looked at pre- and post-flights since the beginning of space flight, but nothing in the middle," she said. "With MARES we can track the astronauts' strength to look at changes. We want to know when the loss starts to decline and when they aren't losing anymore."

The first two subjects are scheduled to launch for the International Space Station in December 2016. Subsequent subjects will be followed over the next four years.

"With access to the in-flight workout records, we'll be able to track their losses and develop countermeasures," Laughlin said. "The next step is to try to limit the losses to a level that would be safe for a mission to Mars."
-end-


University of Houston

Related Mars Articles:

Getting mac and cheese to Mars
Washington State University scientists have developed a way to triple the shelf life of ready-to-eat macaroni and cheese, a development that could have benefits for everything from space travel to military use.
A material way to make Mars habitable
New research suggest that regions of the Martian surface could be made habitable with a material -- silica aerogel -- that mimics Earth's atmospheric greenhouse effect.
Life on Mars?
Researchers from Hungary have discovered embedded organic material in a Martian meteorite found in the late 1970s.
New evidence of deep groundwater on Mars
Researchers at the USC Arid Climate and Water Research Center (AWARE) have published a study that suggests deep groundwater could still be active on Mars and could originate surface streams in some near-equatorial areas on Mars.
Why we won't get to Mars without teamwork
If humanity hopes to make it to Mars anytime soon, we need to understand not just technology, but the psychological dynamic of a small group of astronauts trapped in a confined space for months with no escape, according to a paper published in American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association.
More Mars News and Mars Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...