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Acta Astronaut 1975 Jan-Feb;2(1-2):129-39


Calcium Research: Bone mineral measurement: Skylab experiment M-078.


Vogel JM.

University of California, Davis, Calif., USA.


The observation that bone mineral is lost in patients who are either immobilized or remain in bed for extended periods of time formed the basis for the concern that large amounts of bone mineral may be lost during long periods of weightlessness.


This concern was magnified when early X-ray densitometry studies suggested that rather large amounts of mineral could be lost during rather short periods of weightlessness (4-14 days). Even though these Gemini results have recently been modified, they still reflect substantial losses in the upper extremity.


This led to a series of prolonged bed-rest studies (30-36 weeks) which, in addition to careful calcium balance, also employed a newer, more precise method of estimating bone mineral in the radius, ulna, and os calcis. It employed an essentially monoenergetic photon source (125I) and a scintillation detector operating in a rectilinear scanning mode to measure bone mineral by the absorptiometric technique.


Bed-rest studies revealed variable mineral losses but suggested that little if any is lost during 4-6 weeks, with variable amounts being lost in 8 weeks. Losses up to 40% were noted in the os calcis after 9 months, with essentially none in the radius and ulna. When this technique was employed during the Apollo 14, 15, and 16 missions, only one crewman (CMP Apollo 15) showed significant losses in the os calcis and none in the radius or ulna.


These results were, therefore, in concert with the bed-rest data but at variance with the earlier Gemini data. The variability observed during bed rest was reconciled when it was observed that the rate of loss could be correlated with the initial 24-hour urinary hydroxyproline excretion and the initial os calcis mineral content. Prediction terms were established. Measurements of the SL-II crew after 28 days of weightlessness revealed no significant bone mineral losses. The Skylab data lie within the predicted limits obtained from the bed-rest data. The relevance of the prediction terms to the Skylab and longer missions discussed.




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