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During its 50 years of existence, NASA has continued to evolve such a program, which, at the present time, is centered primarily on operational medicine objectives being pursued on the National Space Laboratory, a key component of the International Space Station (ISS).
For instance, the report recommended that genetically altered mice be used in flight experiments to investigate the molecular mechanisms of bone loss, yet these experiments have not been completed.
Therefore, there is a need to adopt effective countermeasures that have been appropriately tested in relevant human and animal models.
The 1998 NRC report A Strategy for Research in Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century recommended several experiments to address the problem of bone loss during spaceflight.
To meet its objectives, the AHB Panel focused on the following topics: (1) what is known about the risk and deleterious effects of spaceflight (and ground-based analogs) on the structure and function of the musculoskeletal (bone and muscle), sensory-motor, cardiovascular, pulmonary, endocrine, and immune systems, as well as how animals develop in the absence of gravity; (2) the effectiveness of the countermeasures currently used to maintain organ system homeostasis in the face of microgravity; (3) the knowledge gaps in understanding of the above topics that need to be addressed; (4) the research platforms needed to undertake new research initiatives in the next decade; (5) the overarching issues that have to be addressed in fostering cutting-edge, integrative research in humans and animals, and spanning multiple physiological systems, to generate future countermeasure strategies; and (6) the specific high-priority research initiatives that are needed to sharpen and advance the science knowledge necessary for progress in the next decade.
(It is important to note that certain topics that have a major impact across multiple physiological systems, such as nutrition, are in most cases not covered in this chapter, but rather in Chapter 7, which focuses on crosscutting issues.) Finally, in examining programmatic activities relevant to this chapter, and as discussed in the committee’s interim report to NASA, the AHB Panel was deeply concerned that NASA had severely reduced research initiatives in the life and physical sciences in the latter half of the past decade.