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Molecular events underlying skeletal muscle atrophy and the development of effective countermeasuresSkeletal muscle adapts to loading; atrophying when exposed to unloading on Earth or in spaceflight. Significant atrophy (decreases in muscle fiber cross-section of 11-24%) in humans has been noted after only 5 days in space. Since muscle strength is determined both by muscle cross-section and synchronization of motor unit recruitment, a loss in muscle size weakens astronauts, which would increase risks to their safety if an emergency required maximal muscle force. Numerous countermeasures have been tested to prevent atrophy. Resistant exercise together with growth hormone and IGF-I are effective countermeasures to unloading as most atrophy is prevented in animal models. The loss of muscle protein is due to an early decrease in protein synthesis rate and a later increase in protein degradation. The initial decrease in protein synthesis is a result of decreased protein translation, caused by a prolongation in the elongation rate. A decrease in HSP70 by a sight increase in ATP may be the factors prolonging elongation rate. Increases in the activities of proteolytic enzymes and in ubiquitin contribute to the increased protein degradation rate in unloaded muscle. Numerous mRNA concentrations have been shown to be altered in unloaded muscles. Decreases in mRNAs for contractile proteins usually occur after the initial fall in protein synthesis rates. Much additional research is needed to determine the mechanism by which muscle senses the absence of gravity with an adaptive atrophy. The development of effective countermeasures to unloading atrophy will require more research.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Booth, F. W.
(University of Texas Medical School, Department of Integrative Biology Pharmacology, and Physiology, Houston, United States)
Criswell, D. S.
Date Acquired
August 22, 2013
Publication Date
October 1, 1997
Publication Information
Publication: International journal of sports medicine
Volume: 18 Suppl 4
ISSN: 0172-4622
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Distribution Limits
Non-NASA Center
Review, Tutorial
NASA Discipline Musculoskeletal
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