(Text from NASA webpage)
Exposure to actual and simulated microgravity is known to lead to loss of muscle mass, function and motor control.
Myotendinous and Neuromuscular Adaptation to Long-term Spaceflight (Sarcolab) investigates the adaptation and deterioration of the soleus, or calf muscle, where it joins the Achilles tendon, which links it to the heel and carries loads from the entire body. Muscle fiber samples are taken from crew members before and after flight, and analyzed for changes in structural and chemical properties. MRI and ultrasound tests and electrode stimulation are conducted to help assess muscle and tendon changes caused by microgravity exposure.
The first goal of the project is to investigate the myotendinous structural and functional determinants of this phenomenon using an in vivo and in vitro approach. Whole skeletal muscle in vivo (plantarflexors) and in vitro on isolated muscles fibers (of the soleus muscle (SOL) which are most affected by microgravity) will be studied for humans exposed to long-term spaceflight.
The second goal of the project is to characterize reflex excitability of the dis-used muscles.
By improving the understanding of the mechanisms behind loss of muscle mass in space, more effective countermeasures for the crews can be developed, whether pharmacological, dietary or exercise-based in order to alleviate such adverse effects and hence improve/maintain the health and performance of our astronauts in orbit.
By improving the understanding of the mechanisms behind loss of muscle mass in space and developing appropriate and effective countermeasures to any adverse effects, we can also draw conclusions and get insights into certain muscular conditions on Earth. and used within rehabilitation of patients affected by such medical conditions.
Danish Aerospace Company supported the operations of this experiment during on flight scanning with Mares Ultrasoun equipment which is ESA´s muscle research laboratory on the International Space Station.
Scanning procedure on Astronaut´s leg
Screen Image of fiber thickness