Spaceflight on STS-48 and earth-based unweighting produce similar effects on skeletal muscle of young rats

M. E. Tischler, E. J. Henriksen, K. A. Munoz, C. S. Stump, C. R. Woodman, C. R. Kirby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Our knowledge of the effects of unweighting on skeletal muscle of juvenile rapidly growing rats has been obtained entirely by using hindlimb-suspension models. No spaceflight data on juvenile animals are available to validate these models of simulated weightlessness. Therefore, eight 26-day-old female Sprague-Dawley albino rats were exposed to 5.4 days of weightlessness aboard the space shuttle Discovery (mission STS-48, September 1991). An asynchronous ground control experiment mimicked the flight cage condition, ambient shuttle temperatures, and mission duration for a second group of rats. A third group of animals underwent hindlimb suspension for 5.4 days at ambient temperatures. Although all groups consumed food at a similar rate, flight animals gained a greater percentage of body mass per day (P < 0.05). Mass and protein data showed weight-bearing hindlimb muscles were most affected, with atrophy of the soleus and reduced growth of the plantaris and gastrocnemius in both the flight and suspended animals. In contrast, the non-weight- bearing extensor digitorum longus and tibialis anterior muscles grew normally. Earlier suspension studies showed that the soleus develops an increased sensitivity to insulin during unweighting atrophy, particularly for the uptake of 2-[1,2-3H]deoxyglucose. Therefore, this characteristic was studied in isolated muscles within 2 h after cessation of spaceflight or suspension. Insulin increased uptake 2.5- and 2.7-fold in soleus of flight and suspended animals, respectively, whereas it increased only 1.6-fold in control animals. In contrast, the effect of insulin was similar among the three groups for the extensor digitorum longus, which provides a control for potential systemic differences in the animals. These results on insulin response and muscle size indicate that the tail-cast hindlimb suspension model appears suitable for mimicking the effects of weightlessness on rapidly growing muscle of juvenile rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2161-2165
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1993


  • glucose transport
  • hindlimb unweighting
  • muscle atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Spaceflight on STS-48 and earth-based unweighting produce similar effects on skeletal muscle of young rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this