NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Development of the Aortic Baroreflex in MicrogravityBaroreceptors sense pressure in blood vessels and send this information to the brain. The primary baroreceptors are located in the main blood vessel leaving the heart (the aorta) and in the arteries in the neck (the carotid arteries). The brain uses information from the baroreceptors to determine whether blood pressure should be raised or lowered. These reflex responses are called baroreflexes. Changing position within a gravity field (i.e., moving from lying to sitting or standing) powerfully stimulates the baroreflexes. In weightlessness, the amount of stimuli that the baroreflexes receive is dramatically reduced. If this reduction occurs when the pathways that control the baroreflexes are being formed, it is possible that either the structure or function of the baroreceptors may be permanently changed. To study the effect of microgravity on structural and functional development of the aortic baroreflex system, we studied young rats (eight days old at launch) that flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia for 16 days. Six rats were studied on landing day; another six were studied after re-adapting to Earth's gravity for 30 days. On both landing day and 30 days after landing, we tested the sensitivity of the rats' baroreflex response. While the rats were anaesthetized, we recorded their arterial pressure, heart rate, and aortic nerve activity. After the tissues were preserved with perfusion fixation, we also examined the baroreflex structures. On landing day, we found that, compared to the controls, the flight rats had: fewer unmyelinated nerve fibers in their aortic nerves lower baroreflex sensitivity significantly lower contraction ability and wall tension of the aorta a reduced number of smooth muscle cells in the aorta. In the 30-day recovery group, the sensitivity of the baroreflex showed no difference between the flight rats and the control groups, although the unmyelinated fibers of the aortic nerve remained reduced in the flight rats. The results show that spaceflight does affect the development of the aortic baroreflex. The sensitivity of the reflex may be suppressed; however, the function of the blood pressure control system can re-adapt to Earth's gravity if the rats return before maturation. The structural differences in the input pathway of the reflex (Le., the reduction in nerve fibers) may remain permanently.
Document ID
Document Type
Shimizu, Tsuyoshi (Fukushima Medical Univ. Fukushima, Japan)
Yamasaki, Masao (Fukushima Medical Univ. Fukushima, Japan)
Waki, Hidefumi (Fukushima Medical Univ. Fukushima, Japan)
Katsuda, Shin-ichiro (Fukushima Medical Univ. Fukushima, Japan)
Oishi, Hirotaka (Fukushima Medical Univ. Fukushima, Japan)
Katahira, Kiyoaki (Fukushima Medical Univ. Fukushima, Japan)
Nagayama, Tadanori (Fukushima Medical Univ. Fukushima, Japan)
Miyake, Masao (Tokyo Univ. Japan)
Miyamoto, Yukako (Fukushima Medical Univ. Fukushima, Japan)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2003
Publication Information
Publication: The Neurolab Spacelab Mission: Neuroscience Research in Space: Results from the STS-90, Neurolab Spacelab Mission
Subject Category
Life Sciences (General)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

Available Downloads

NameType 20030068216.pdf STI

Related Records

IDRelationTitle20030068190Analytic PrimaryThe Neurolab Spacelab Mission: Neuroscience Research in Space: Results from the STS-90, Neurolab Spacelab Mission