Mice on MARS: Simulated gravity prevents musculoskeletal deterioration in space

Japan takes its new centrifuge mouse habitat for a spin, showing for the first time that simulated gravity protects muscle and bone mass

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Japanese scientists recently revealed a pioneering system for investigating how mice respond to microgravity and simulated gravity. Their Multiple Artificial-gravity Research System (MARS) has now provided the first evidence that simulated gravity could prevent musculoskeletal wastage during spaceflight.

The team, led by the Dai Shiba of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), created mouse habitats to fit JAXA’s gravity-simulating centrifuge aboard the ISS, and housing for the trips to/from earth. In MARS’ first mission, twelve mice were kept under conditions of microgravity or earth-like simulated gravity. After 35 days, the mice that experienced microgravity showed decreases in femur bone density and leg muscle mass. In comparison, the mice kept in simulated gravity maintained normal physical health.

This study, published in Scientific Reports, highlights MARS’ potential to benefit our understanding of how microgravity and simulated gravity interacts with life.

Kristopher James Kent

Freelance journalist, kriskent.co.uk

I'm a freelance writer and journalist who produces content for Nature, the Nature Partner Journals, and magazines from international universities and government science institutes. I write across a broad range of science topics, though my primary interests lie within medical science, science policy, disability, and mental health.