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Muscle atrophy and bone loss after 90 days bed rest and the effects of flywheel resistive exercise and pamidronate: results from the LTBR study

Rittweger, Jörn and Frost, Harold M. and Schiessl, Hans and Ohshima, Hiroshi and Alkner, Björn and Tesch, Per and Felsenberg, Dieter (2005) Muscle atrophy and bone loss after 90 days bed rest and the effects of flywheel resistive exercise and pamidronate: results from the LTBR study. Bone, 36 (6). pp. 1019-1029. ISSN 8756-3282

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Abstract

Muscle atrophy and bone loss pose substantial problems for long-term space flight and in clinical immobilization. We therefore tested the efficacy of flywheel resistive exercise and pamidronate to counteract such losses. Twenty five young healthy males underwent strict bed rest with −6° head-down tilt for 90 days. Subjects were randomized into an exercise group that practiced resistive exercise with a ‘flywheel’ (FW) device every 2–3 days, a pamidronate group (Pam) that received 60 mg pamidronate i.v. 14 days prior to bed rest and a control group (Ctrl) that received none of these countermeasures. During the study, Ca++ and protein intake were controlled. Peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) was used to assess bone mineral content (BMC) and muscle cross sectional area (mCSA) of calf and forearm. Measurements were taken twice during baseline data collection, after 28 and after 89 days bed rest, and after 14 days recovery. On the same days, urinary Pyridinoline excretion and serum levels of alkaline phosphatase, Ca++ and PTH were measured. Pre-study exercise habits were assessed through the Freiburg questionnaire. Losses in calf mCSA were significantly reduced in FW (Ctrl: −25.6% ± 2.5% Pam: −25.6% ± 3.7%, FW: −17.3% ± 2.7%), but not in the forearm mCSA (Ctrl: −6.4% ± 4.33%, Pam: −7.7% ± 4.1%, FW: −7.6% ± 3.3%). Both diaphyseal and epiphyseal BMC losses of the tibia were mitigated in Pam and FW as compared to Ctrl, although this was significant only at the diaphysis. Inter-individual variability was significantly greater for changes in BMC than in mCSA, and correlation of BMC losses was poor among different locations of the tibia. A significant positive correlation was found between change in tibia epiphyseal BMC and serum cortisol levels. These findings suggest that both countermeasures are only partly effective to preserve BMC (FW and Pam) and mCSA (FW) of the lower leg during bed rest. The partial efficacy of flywheel exercise as well as the bones' response to unloading per se underlines the importance of mechanical stimuli. The huge variability of BMC changes, however, suggests that other factors affect changes in whole-bone strength following acute mechanical disuse.

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