Being in outer space for long periods of time can have a negative impact on the bones of astronauts. It’s believed that microgravity plays a role in this, activating osteoclasts, which are cells inside of bones responsible for breaking down bone tissue.
Because researchers are interested in learning more about why this happens, live fish have spent 56 days aboard the International Space Station, where they were subjected to the effects of microgravity.
After this period of testing, the jawbones and teeth of the fish were carefully observed with an electron microscope to see if there were any noticeable changes in the bone mineral density. Evidence of increased osteoclast activity and reduced bone mineral density were uncovered in the research.
Increased activity with mitochondria inside in the osteoclast cells were found to be more active in micro-gravitational conditions, suggesting that the reason for bone density loss in space could be linked to mitochondria activity.
“If this is also true for astronauts, medicines that target mitochondria dysfunction may restore the bone loss in space,” said Akira Kudo, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
Although osteoclasts lead to bone problems here on Earth too, it typically doesn’t happen until at a later age, known as osteoporosis.
Since microgravity seems to speed up the process, this research offers scientists in the field of medicine a chance to have a front-row seat to observing the effects of bone density loss in super speed and potentially developing new medicines that could treat the condition right here on Earth.
Similar medicines could also be used to rejuvenate the bones of astronauts that will be involved with space travel and International Space Station trips until they can return to Earth.