Traveling to space is not an easy task. People traveling to space and has to undergo many rigorous training programs. During a flight to the moon or a planet like the Mars, humans will be exposed to microgravity. It is a condition in which the gravitational field is very smaller than the Earth. This change in the atmosphere can cause varieties of impacts or consequences on many body functions and systems, organs, including muscle bone, respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems. The astronauts will be exposed to environments of low oxygen, and hypoxic stress will be encountered along with reduced gravity.
The low oxygen can cause adverse effects. The Mitochondria which are present in cells use oxygen in the oxidative metabolism process to produce energy. This energy is required by the skeletal muscles for movement and to be active. Low oxygen will impair this function. Even if there was sufficient oxygen, there is another problem of “inactivity” which will have more effect on the skeletal muscle than reduced oxygen, as stated by researchers.
Studies showed that the skeletal impairments due to microgravity were not made worse by hypoxia. Even though hypoxia and inactivity both can cause very dangerous respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, researchers doubt that “inactivity” can cause the worst of all problems for skeletal muscles. If this doubt is confirmed, it will have a big consequence on the rehabilitative and therapeutic interventions as hypoxia is less critical compared to inactivity.
The wide study was led by the Udine University psychologists in conjunction with the University of Munich, the Milano Polytechnic, University of Pavia, Swedish Aerospace Physiology Centre, German Aerospace Center and some more. The mechanisms by which energy is obtained by the human tissues by burning fats and sugars in the presence of Oxygen during a workout, on the knee extensors of a single leg of 11 different active men was deeply evaluated by the team. Mitochondrial respiration on skeletal muscle fibers was also evaluated by biopsy.
The finding of this research will help to understand the muscle behavior in long durations of inactivity in conjunction with hypoxia and also help to prepare astronauts in a better way for spaceflights. Future studies will concentrate more deeply on the human mechanisms responsible for the findings observed. The findings on skeletal muscles alone are not enough and will have to be interpreted in coordination with other studies of the projects like the PlanHab which deals with the immune, respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems and their metabolism.