The effects of 10 days of spaceflight on the shuttle Endeavor on predominantly fast-twitch muscles in the rat.Histochem Cell Biol. 2000 Nov; 114(5):349-55.HC
The primary purpose of this investigation was to determine the effects of microgravity on muscle fibers of the predominantly fast-twitch muscles in the rat. Cross sectional area and myosin heavy chain (MHC) composition were assessed in order to establish the acute effects of microgravity associated with spaceflight. The extensor digitorum longus (EDL) and gastrocnemius muscles were removed from 12 male Fisher 344 rats which had undergone 10 days of spaceflight aboard the space shuttle Endeavor and from 12 age- and weight-matched control animals. Both groups of animals received similar amounts of food and water and were synchronized for photoperiods, environmental temperature, and humidity. Significant (P < 0.05) reductions in muscle fiber size were observed in the gastrocnemius (fiber types I, IIA, IIDB, and IIB) and EDL (fiber type IIB) muscles after spaceflight. Significant MHC isoform transformations also resulted during this brief period of microgravity exposure with a significant decrease in MHC IId isoform in the EDL muscle. A significant decrease was also observed in the MHC IId isoform in the superficial (white) component of the gastrocnemius muscle after spaceflight, although no alterations in MHC profile were demonstrated in the deep (red) component of this muscle. These findings highlight the rapid plasticity of skeletal muscle during short-term spaceflight. If such pronounced adaptations to spaceflight also occur in humans, then astronauts are likely to suffer severe decrements in skeletal muscle performance with long-term space flight and upon return to earth after both short- and long-term missions. Thus, countermeasures aimed at slowing or even preventing muscle fiber atrophy are warranted.