Age-dependent atrophy and microgravity travel: what do they have in common?
Space travel and extending human lifespan are two of the many advances of the twentieth century. However, both of these scientific wonders exact a price for their gains; i.e. deleterious effects on normal physiological processes. For example, both old age and prolonged microgravity travel are associated with atrophy in heart, muscle, and bone. The underlying signal transduction pathways, the control mechanisms for the processes of proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis, may prove to be similarly altered in both old age and microgravity travel. We suggest that the mechanical events involved in space travel provide a telescopic compression of lifespan changes in these tissues; if so, space travel provides an excellent opportunity to investigate how long-term degeneration occurs on Earth. With the aid of biochip technology for multi-factorial analysis, a platform can be generated to create therapeutic modalities to contain, retard, reduce, or prevent this tissue atrophy, either in space or on Earth.
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