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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Spaceflight alters the fiber composition of the aortic nerve in the developing rat.

Hydrostatic pressure gradients due to the gravitational force in blood vessels disappear under conditions of microgravity during spaceflight, and the ability of the baroreceptor reflex to control arterial pressure and blood distribution may be altered. We hypothesized, on the basis of the results obtained in our previous experiments using the head-down tilt method in rats and rabbits, that the range of increase in arterial pressure caused by animal behavior narrows under conditions of microgravity, affecting the development of high-threshold unmyelinated fibers in the rat aortic nerve which sends signals from baroreceptors located in the aortic wall to the reflex center. We verified this hypothesis using 9-day-old rat neonates housed with their dams for 16 days on the space shuttle Columbia in outer space (STS-90, Neurolab Mission). Age-matched neonatal rats with the dams remained on the ground as controls. After breeding was carried out in the three experimental groups ( FLT, spaceflight; AGC, asynchronous ground control; VIV, vivarium ground control), specimens of the 25-day-old rats were excised and five left aortic nerves in each group were examined by electron microscopy. The number of aortic unmyelinated fibers was significantly less in the FLT group than in each ground control (mean+/-S.D.; 139+/-37 in the FLT, 207+/-36 in the AGC, 283+/-121 in the VIV; P<0.05), which may be related to the weakness of the baroreceptor reflex under conditions of microgravity in space. This result may contribute to understanding of the several cardiovascular issues which occur under microgravity and after reexposure to gravity in human.[1]


  1. Spaceflight alters the fiber composition of the aortic nerve in the developing rat. Yamasaki, M., Shimizu, T., Katahira, K., Waki, H., Nagayama, T., O-Ishi, H., Katsuda, S., Miyake, M., Miyamoto, Y., Wago, H., Okouchi, T., Matsumoto, S. Neuroscience (2004) [Pubmed]
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