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The Digital Astronaut Project Computational Bone Remodeling Model (Beta Version) Bone Summit Summary ReportUnder the conditions of microgravity, astronauts lose bone mass at a rate of 1% to 2% a month, particularly in the lower extremities such as the proximal femur [1-3]. The most commonly used countermeasure against bone loss in microgravity has been prescribed exercise [4]. However, data has shown that existing exercise countermeasures are not as effective as desired for preventing bone loss in long duration, 4 to 6 months, spaceflight [1,3,5,6]. This spaceflight related bone loss may cause early onset of osteoporosis to place the astronauts at greater risk of fracture later in their lives. Consequently, NASA seeks to have improved understanding of the mechanisms of bone demineralization in microgravity in order to appropriately quantify this risk, and to establish appropriate countermeasures [7]. In this light, NASA's Digital Astronaut Project (DAP) is working with the NASA Bone Discipline Lead to implement well-validated computational models to help predict and assess bone loss during spaceflight, and enhance exercise countermeasure development. More specifically, computational modeling is proposed as a way to augment bone research and exercise countermeasure development to target weight-bearing skeletal sites that are most susceptible to bone loss in microgravity, and thus at higher risk for fracture. Given that hip fractures can be debilitating, the initial model development focused on the femoral neck. Future efforts will focus on including other key load bearing bone sites such as the greater trochanter, lower lumbar, proximal femur and calcaneus. The DAP has currently established an initial model (Beta Version) of bone loss due to skeletal unloading in femoral neck region. The model calculates changes in mineralized volume fraction of bone in this segment and relates it to changes in bone mineral density (vBMD) measured by Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT). The model is governed by equations describing changes in bone volume fraction (BVF), and rates of changes in bone cell populations that remove and replace bone in packets within the bone region. The DAP bone model is unique in several respects. In particular in takes former models of volume fraction changes one step higher in fidelity and separates BVF into separate equations for mineralized and osteoid volume fractions governed by a mineralization rate. This more closely follows the physiology of the remodeling unit cycles where bone is first resorbed and then followed by the action of osteoblasts to lay down collagen matrix which eventually becomes mineralized. In another respect, the modules allow the functional description of the time rate of change of other parameters and variables in the model during a computational simulation. More detailed description of the model, preliminary validation results, current limitation and caveats, and planned advancements are provided in sections 2 through 5. The DAP bone model is being developed primarily as a research tool, and not as a clinical tool like QCT. Even if it transitions to a clinical tool, it is not intended to replace QCT or any other clinical tool. Moreover, the DAP bone model does not predict bone fracture. Its purpose is to provide valuable additional data via "forward prediction" simulations for during and after spaceflight missions to gain insight on, (1) mechanisms of bone demineralization in microgravity, and (2) the volumetric changes at the various bone sites in response to in-flight and post-flight exercise countermeasures. This data can then be used as input to the Keyak [8] (or equivalent) FE analysis method to gain insight on how bone strength may change during and after flight. This information can also be useful to help optimize exercise countermeasure protocols to minimize changes in bone strength during flight, and improve regain of bone strength post-flight. To achieve this goal, the bone model will be integrated with DAP's exercise countermeasure models to simulate the effect of exercise prescriptions on preserving bone. More specifically, the model will accept loading history due to muscle and joint force on bone and produce quantified remodeling within the bone region under influence of the applied stress. Furthermore, because they tend to respond differently, the bone remodeling model includes both trabecular bone and cortical bone.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Johnson Space Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Pennline, James
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH, United States)
Mulugeta, Lealem
(Universities Space Research Association Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
April 21, 2014
Publication Date
September 23, 2013
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: Bone Summit II Research and Clinical Advisory Panel Meeting
Location: Houston, TX
Country: United States
Start Date: November 1, 2013
End Date: November 5, 2013
Sponsors: Universities Space Research Association
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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