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The Response of Articular Cartilage to Microgravity (ARC00XX136)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Developmental biology
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Mus musculus Species: Mouse Strain: C57BL/6N

The objective of this project is to determine whether the reduced mechanical forces associated with microgravity lead to osteoarthritis. Although the effects of microgravity on bone are well known and appear to be reversible, the effects reduced mechanical forces on the cartilage surfaces of articulating joints are less well understood. Studies in humans and animals clearly demonstrate that osteoarthritis results from abnormal (both increased and decreased) mechanical forces on cartilage. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that appropriate mechanical forces are critical for the health of articular cartilage. We further hypothesize that the absence of significant biomechanical forces affects that ability of the chondrocyte to maintain healthy functioning cartilage. This may lead to accelerated cartilage breakdown and osteoarthritis.

There have been no studies that specifically investigate whether microgravity results in the degeneration of articular cartilage. Articular cartilage breakdown could be a major consequence of long-term space travel because, unlike bone, once cartilage degradation begins it cannot be reversed, typically leading to osteoarthritis. The mobility of an individual affected by even mid-stage osteoarthritis would be compromised leading to a failure to complete the full range of mission duties.

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Fitzgerald J, Endicott J, Hansen U, Janowitz C. Articular cartilage and sternal fibrocartilage respond differently to extended microgravity. npj Microgravity. 2019 Feb 18;5(1):3.

Cartilage, articular
Gene expression
Histological Techniques
Knee Osteoarthritis
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Data Information
Data Availability
Archive is complete. No data sets are available for this experiment. Please Contact LSDA if you know of available data for this investigation.

Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Bion_M1 04/01/2013

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Ames Research Center (ARC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Ames Research Center LSDA Level 3
Project Manager: Helen Stewart
Institutional Support
Russian Space Agency (RSA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source