Combined effects of heavy ion exposure and simulated Lunar gravity on skeletal muscle. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: The limitations to prolonged spaceflight include unloading-induced atrophy of the musculoskeletal system which may be enhanced by exposure to the space radiation environment. Previous results have concluded that partial gravity, comparable to the Lunar surface, may have detrimental effects on skeletal muscle. However, little is known if these outcomes are exacerbated by exposure to low-dose rate, high-energy radiation common to the space environment. Therefore, the present study sought to determine the impact of highly charge, high-energy (HZE) radiation on skeletal muscle when combined with partial weightbearing to simulate Lunar gravity. We hypothesized that partial unloading would compromise skeletal muscle and these effects would be exacerbated by radiation exposure. METHODS: For month old female BALB/cByJ mice were -assigned to one of 2 groups; either full weight bearing (Cage Controls, CC) or partial weight bearing equal to 1/6th bodyweight (G/6). Both groups were then divided to receive either a single whole body absorbed dose of 0.5Gy of 300MeV 28Si ions (RAD) or a sham treatment (SHAM). Radiation exposure experiments were performed at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) located at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Day 0, followed by 21 d of CC or G/6 loading. Muscles of the hind limb were used to measure protein synthesis and other histological measures. RESULTS: Twenty-one days of Lunar gravity (G/6) resulted in lower soleus, plantaris, and gastrocnemius muscle mass. Radiation exposure did not further impact muscle mass. 28Si exposure in normal ambulatory animals (RAD+CC) did not impact gastrocnemius muscle mass when compared to SHAM+CC (p>0.05), but did affect the soleus, where mass was higher following radiation compared to SHAM (p<0.05). Mixed gastrocnemius muscle protein synthesis was lower in both unloading groups. Fiber type composition transitioned towards a faster isoform with partial unloading and was not further impacted by radiation. The combined effects of partial loading and radiation partially mitigated fiber cross-sectional area when compared to partial loading alone. Radiation and G/6 reduced the total number of myonuclei per fiber while leading to elevated BrdU content of skeletal muscle. Similarly, unloading and radiation resulted in higher collagen content of muscle when compared to controls, but the effects of combined exposure were not additive. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study confirm that partial weightbearing causes muscle atrophy, in part due to reductions of muscle protein synthesis in the soleus and gastrocnemius as well as reduced peripheral nuclei per fiber. Additionally, we present novel data illustrating 28Si exposure reduced nuclei in muscle fibers despite higher satellite cell fusion, but did not exacerbate muscle atrophy, CSA changes, or collagen content. In conclusion, both partial loading and HZE radiation can negatively impact muscle morphology.

published proceedings

  • Life Sci Space Res (Amst)

altmetric score

  • 2.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Wiggs, M. P., Lee, Y., Shimkus, K. L., O'Reilly, C. I., Lima, F., Macias, B. R., ... Fluckey, J. D.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Wiggs, Michael P||Lee, Yang||Shimkus, Kevin L||O'Reilly, Colleen I||Lima, Florence||Macias, Brandon R||Shirazi-Fard, Yasaman||Greene, Elizabeth S||Hord, Jeffrey M||Braby, Leslie A||Carroll, Chad C||Lawler, John M||Bloomfield, Susan A||Fluckey, James D

publication date

  • May 2023