Sarcolab pilot study into skeletal muscle's adaptation to long-term spaceflight

Publications: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Jörn Rittweger
  • Kirsten Albracht
  • Martin Flück
  • Severin Ruoss
  • Lorenza Brocca
  • Emanuela Longa
  • Manuela Moriggi
  • Olivier Seynnes
  • Irene Di Giulio
  • Leonardo Tenori
  • Alessia Vignoli
  • Miriam Capri
  • Cecilia Gelfi
  • Claudio Luchinat
  • Claudio Franceschi
  • Roberto Bottinelli
  • Paolo Cerretelli
  • Marco Narici

Research units


Spaceflight causes muscle wasting. The Sarcolab pilot study investigated two astronauts with regards to plantar flexor muscle size, architecture, and function, and to the underlying molecular adaptations in order to further the understanding of muscular responses to spaceflight and exercise countermeasures. Two crew members (A and B) spent 6 months in space. Crew member A trained less vigorously than B. Postflight, A showed substantial decrements in plantar flexor volume, muscle architecture, in strength and in fiber contractility, which was strongly mitigated in B. The difference between these crew members closely reflected FAK-Y397 abundance, a molecular marker of muscle's loading history. Moreover, crew member A showed downregulation of contractile proteins and enzymes of anaerobic metabolism, as well as of systemic markers of energy and protein metabolism. However, both crew members exhibited decrements in muscular aerobic metabolism and phosphate high energy transfer. We conclude that countermeasures can be effective, particularly when resistive forces are of sufficient magnitude. However, to fully prevent space-related muscular deterioration, intersubject variability must be understood, and intensive exercise countermeasures programs seem mandatory. Finally, proteomic and metabolomic analyses suggest that exercise benefits in space may go beyond mere maintenance of muscle mass, but rather extend to the level of organismic metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalNPJ Microgravity
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 3493320

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