Experiments are showing that muscle loss caused by prolonged periods spent in zero gravity could be prevented (or at least lessened) by daily spins in a centrifuge. Just thinking about this makes me nauseated, so there goes being an astronaut.
Remember those "pillownauts"? Just like them, folks at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston are spending weeks at a time in bed, except they're also spending an hour each day being spun around in a centrifuge designed by NASA. The idea is that creating an effect that feels like standing against "a force two and half times that of gravity" will assist in restoring muscle synthesis (and thereby possibly preventing muscle loss).
While the study takes detailed measurements of protein synthesis and muscle breakdown, UTMB associate professor Douglas Paddon-Jones warns that it's not without flaws:
"[T]he rate of muscle protein synthesis alone does not necessarily predict changes in muscle function. But, he pointed out, it was still a strong indicator that a relatively brief intervention could have a positive effect in preventing zero-gravity muscle loss - one that might also be applied on Earth.
Paddon-Jones continues on to explain that joy rides in centrifuges aren't the end-all solution to the muscle loss issues in space, but at least the study also has potential for clinical applications for the immobile and elderly suffering down here. [Journal of Applied Physiology via Science Daily]
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