Validation of a New Rodent Experimental System to Investigate Consequences of Long Duration Space Habitation.


Space Biosciences Division, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA. [Email]


Animal models are useful for exploring the health consequences of prolonged spaceflight. Capabilities were developed to perform experiments in low earth orbit with on-board sample recovery, thereby avoiding complications caused by return to Earth. For NASA's Rodent Research-1 mission, female mice (ten 32 wk C57BL/6NTac; ten 16 wk C57BL/6J) were launched on an unmanned vehicle, then resided on the International Space Station for 21/22d or 37d in microgravity. Mice were euthanized on-orbit, livers and spleens dissected, and remaining tissues frozen in situ for later analyses. Mice appeared healthy by daily video health checks and body, adrenal, and spleen weights of 37d-flight (FLT) mice did not differ from ground controls housed in flight hardware (GC), while thymus weights were 35% greater in FLT than GC. Mice exposed to 37d of spaceflight displayed elevated liver mass (33%) and select enzyme activities compared to GC, whereas 21/22d-FLT mice did not. FLT mice appeared more physically active than respective GC while soleus muscle showed expected atrophy. RNA and enzyme activity levels in tissues recovered on-orbit were of acceptable quality. Thus, this system establishes a new capability for conducting long-duration experiments in space, enables sample recovery on-orbit, and avoids triggering standard indices of chronic stress.

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