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Animal models and their importance to human physiological responses in microgravity


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 1996 - Volume 28 - Issue 10 - p 94-100
International Workshop on Cardiovascular Rearch in Space: Integrated Physiology of µG

Two prominent theories to explain the physiological effects of microgravity relate to the cascade of changes associated with the cephalic shifts of fluids and the absence of tissue deformation forces. One-g experiments for humans used bed rest and the head-down tilt (HDT) method, while animal experiments have been conducted using the tail-suspended, head-down, and hindlimbs non-weightbearing model. Because of the success of the HDT approach with rats to simulate the gravitational effects on the musculoskeletal system exhibited by humans, the same model has been used to study the effects of gravity on the cardiopulmonary systems of humans and other vertebrates. Results to date indicate the model is effective in producing comparable changes associated with blood volume, erythropoiesis, cardiac mass, baroreceptor responsiveness, carbohydrate metabolism, post-flight˙VO2max, and post-flight cardiac output during exercise. Inherent with these results is the potential of the model to be useful in investigating responsible mechanisms. The suspension model has promise in understanding the capillary blood PO2 changes in space as well as the arterial PO2 changes in subjects participating in a HDT experiment. However, whether the model can provide insights on the up-or-down regulation of adrenoreceptors remains to be determined, and many investigators believe the HDT approach should not be followed to study gravitational influences on pulmonary function in either humans or animals. It was concluded that the tail-suspended animal model had sufficient merit to study in-flight and post-flight human physiological responses and mechanisms.

Department of Physiology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0093

Submitted for publication December 1995.

Accepted for publication May 1996.

This work was supported in part by NASA grant NAG-392.

Address for correspondence: Charles M. Tipton, Ph.D., 24 Gittings Building, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0093.

©1996The American College of Sports Medicine