It has always been a desire of mankind to conquest Space. A major step in realizing this dream was the completion of the International Space Station (ISS). Living there for several months confirmed early observations of short-term spaceflights that a loss of gravity affects the health of astronauts. Space medicine tries to understand the mechanism of microgravity-induced health problems and to conceive potent countermeasures. There are four different aspects which make space medicine appealing: i) finding better strategies for adapting astronauts to weightlessness; ii) identification of microgravity-induced diseases (e.g. osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, cardiac problems and others); iii) defining new therapies to conquer these diseases which will benefit astronauts as well as people on Earth in the end; and iv) on top of that, unveiling the mechanisms of weightlessness-dependent molecular and cellular changes is a requirement for improving space medicine. In mammalian cells, microgravity induces apoptosis and alters the cytoskeleton and affects signal transduction pathways, cell differentiation, growth, proliferation, migration and adhesion.
This review focused on gravi-sensitive signal transduction elements and pathways as well as molecular mechanisms in human cells, aiming to understand the cellular changes in altered gravity. Moreover, the latest information on how these changes lead to clinically relevant health problems and current strategies of countermeasures are reviewed.
Keywords: Space medicine, weightlessness, cells, apoptosis, gravi-sensitivity, proteomics, signal transduction, gravitational force, astronauts, space motion sickness, scopolamine, promethazine, hydrostatic force, neurohormonal reactions, hypovolemia
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