Out in space, unchallenged by gravity, muscles and bones weaken. Weight-bearing muscles are hit first and worst, like the soleus muscle in the calf.
“After just 3 weeks in space, the human soleus muscle shrinks by a third,” says Dr. Marie Mortreux, lead author of the NASA-funded study at the laboratory of Dr. Seward Rutkove, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School. “This is accompanied by a loss of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are needed for endurance.”
To allow astronauts to operate safely on long missions to Mars – whose gravitational pull is just 40% of Earth’s – mitigating strategies will be needed to prevent muscle deconditioning.
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