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Osteoporosis Drug Makes Lengthy Space Trips More Tolerable

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the get-your-bones-to-mars dept.

Japan 42

An anonymous reader writes "Japanese researchers have discovered that by taking drugs normally targeted at osteoporosis sufferers they can mitigate the long term effects of weightlessness. This makes it more possible that humans could reasonably fly to Mars land there and be fully functional even after the lengthy journey." JAXA provides much more detail, including interviews with both lead investigator Toshio Matsumoto and Koichi Wakata, the first subject of the experiment.

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42 comments

First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38279170)

my attempt at this.

Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279176)

Well, one problem down, about a million to go.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38279234)

Using up Oxygen is a non-problem, because it's not exactly used up, just placed in another form, converting it back is a well understood chemical process that can be done by any number of mechanisms.

Or just carry plenty along, depending on which is the better choice for mass.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279318)

the better choice for mass

Well there is the *real* problem--mass. Food, water, radiation shielding, fuel--that all takes up a lot of mass too. If only Mars were in LEO.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279874)

Using up Food is a non-problem, because it's not exactly used up, just placed in another form, converting it back is a well understood chemical process that can be done by any number of mechanisms - (As long as you don't mind the taste.)

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (2)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38280356)

Greenhouses, gotcha. And other crew members, if you really crave a steak. ^_^

The one thing that bothers me about using recycled waste to create more food is the problem of parasites. If one person has it, soon everyone will. Though thoroughly cooking the food might work, I still have some doubts for certain types of cysts / eggs. Microwaves do not work on some of them.

I think I'd pass everything through a blowtorch before using it with the plants. Or perhaps through the ship's engines.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38281602)

Damnit guys, you undercooked [rackcdn.com] the food again!

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38282842)

Dirt simple. Sterilize all waste before using it as fertilizer. Or even simpler. Make sure astronauts don't have parasites. Since they'll be in virtual isolation for months, if not years, of training before going on a mars mission, it would be easy enough to get clean, since their diet, activity, water, air, everything, can be completely controlled during this pre-launch period.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

pgpalmer (2015142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38309808)

I think I'd pass everything through a blowtorch before using it with the plants. Or perhaps through the ship's engines.

That's one way to stop tail-gating space vessels, I suppose.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (3, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279324)

Using up Oxygen is a non-problem, because it's not exactly used up, just placed in another form, converting it back is a well understood chemical process that can be done by any number of mechanisms.

Or just carry plenty along, depending on which is the better choice for mass.

Probably some of both. I would expect that such a mission would have an insane number of redundancies, and there's no reason at that point to not include some new tech when there's old safeguard redundancies there. If anything they'll use tech developed for the space station, which doesn't exactly have an umbilical running back to the atmosphere- yes they get resupplied by the Shuttle^H^H^H^H^H^H^HRussians periodically, but they have to go a long time without fresh air being delivered...

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38280230)

Hmm. I always wondered about that.

At some point, with all the things that can go wrong, with a need for replacement parts, you might need to fit a ship with a machine room, so you can fabricate the parts on site. You would also need another room(s) for storing the resources to be used in the machine room. And people intelligent and well trained enough to be able to use those machine. I can understand why the training for astronauts was so rigorous (fixing a breadboard while spinning, that sort of thing).

Of course, the need for such things is somewhat lessened by improving the speed by which we travel through space. If you are traveling out of the solar system, and it will take 20 years, you tend to screen people quite extensively (25 years of age, perfect health, polymath, can outswim a shark...that sort of thing). If you are traveling out of the solar system, and it takes 5 days, well, even the geek with diabetes, coke bottle glasses, and partially deaf can make the journey (also the guy who helped develop the engines used in those ships...you know those scientists / engineers want to fly the freaking thing, and they'd fake the screenings if they could found out how).

Perhaps some mining equipment or matter scoops? Still going to need to replenish materials from time to time...perhaps something directed towards asteroid mining?

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (4, Interesting)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279332)

Indeed removing CO2 is the harder part, though that also can be done and has been done, hence part of why we aren't sending weekly oxygen shipments to the international space station, our bigger problems are still navigating, fuel, Surviving cabin fever etc.. Really I don't think landing a man on mars is really that far out of our technological level, we just lack a cold war or anything to really justify the spending and effort needed to make a government invest heavily in it.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38279464)

Really I don't think landing a man on mars is really that far out of our technological level, we just lack a cold war or anything to really justify the spending and effort needed to make a government invest heavily in it.

Or just leave it to those who will do it because of the cool-factor like China.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (-1, Offtopic)

xelah (176252) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279566)

Or just carry plenty along, depending on which is the better choice for mass.

Good plan - the best thing to do is send along a catholic priest. Then, while he's busy transmuting wine in to the blood of christ and bread in to the body of christ, he can transmute stale CO2-ridden air in to the oxygen of christ.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38282232)

mod parent off topic/troll.

We don't need another of "those discussions". The slashdot "editors" regularly provide more suitable stories for that.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38284870)

? What discussions? About bad grammar changing the meaning of sentences and creating opportunities for puns? Or was there just some serious whoosh!age, here?

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279702)

Well, one problem down, about a million to go.

If you really want to make lengthy space travel more tolerable, you've got to perfect a sex-robot that looks exactly like Olivia Wilde.

You could just go ahead and send Olivia Wilde, but then you have to bring the extra food and water and listen to her complain and stuff. What you want is sort of a cross between a Sony QRIO and a Real Doll, except it has to look exactly like Olivia Wilde.

The good news is that you don't need much battery power. As long as it can run about two minutes per charge, you're good to go.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279998)

After a year in space, a grapefruit looks like Olivia Wilde. (Should I revise that to a week in space?)

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38280096)

I posted that not knowing exactly who Olivia Wilde was (trying to be quick and snarky). So I googled her... My Baby is prettier and I don't have to deal with all the actress ego bs. (I also assumed OW was that chick that used to be on G4, but I was wrong again. Rather be stuck with her, plus she likes hardware).

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

tmarsh86 (896458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38281604)

If you googled her then you should know that she is not that G4 chick- which is Olivia Munn. Olivia Wilde is an actress and was just in Cowboys & Aliens and Tron: Legacy. And if you had seen the movie- and the posters of her- you would know that your baby is not anything like her.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38282282)

If you had learned to read better, you should know that he already knew she is not that G4 chick.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38285242)

Thanks to AC below.

Next time I'll take the time to put html into my post to make it more legible.

Sometimes I get into a hurry.

My Baby is very pretty and I don't just say that because I'm her slave. And if I showed you a photo of her, you may disagree. But that's the great thing about choice and preference. Now I'm not saying OW is not great and all, I just prefer my Baby over her. You shouldn't be offended that we do not share the same tastes. After all, some men prefer blondes...

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38279776)

Sulphur dioxide.

Re:Got anything to keep him from using up oxygen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38282894)

What a waste of precious resources on manned space flight. Spend the money on robots at a tiny fraction of the costs associated with manned space travel. Once we travel with robots and build an environment suitable for humans then worry about putting humans there so they can wave to school children from space.

I don't know. (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279200)

This makes it more possible that humans could reasonably fly to Mars land there and be fully functional even after the lengthy journey.

Drugs or no drugs your arms would be pretty tired.

Re:I don't know. (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279274)

Looks like we should use some juice too!

Comma Karma (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 2 years ago | (#38284514)

Who decided it was to be called "Mars land" and when?

Fully functional, eh? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38279222)

Somebody needs to let Tasha Yar know about that.

Enough THC makes any long journey tolerable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38280170)

ganja isn't just for osteoperosis :)

Drugs in space (1)

RHoltslander (2132652) | more than 2 years ago | (#38280394)

This is interesting and just points to how we're not suited, naturally, to space.

Fossy bone parts (1)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 2 years ago | (#38281090)

Bisphosphonates maintain bones' density but not living bone tissue and structural integrity. Look up "fossy jaw". It's like comparing a chalk deposit to a living coral reef.

Biophosphonates (1)

sakelley (68439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38281130)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphosphonate#Adverse_effects [wikipedia.org]

I'd be very curious to hear about the side effects of using these medications in space. Grandma had plenty of difficulty using them here on earth...

Re:Biophosphonates (1)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38281518)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphosphonate#Adverse_effects [wikipedia.org]

I'd be very curious to hear about the side effects of using these medications in space. Grandma had plenty of difficulty using them here on earth...

This is why I thought Strontium [wikipedia.org] would be the better choice.

Strontium works! (1)

12WTF$ (979066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38288572)

Strontium versus Biphosphonate (Fosamax)
My excellent other half has been taking strontium citrate for a year now and her mild cervical osteoporosis (and her tooth strength) have improved immensely.
In Australia the rules for receiving subsidised prescription osteoporosis medicines are that you need to be over 71 yo and have had a osteoporotic fracture!

The prescriptions are all for patented medicines: Strontium is available as Strontium ranelate (the ranelic acid part does little more than allow the manufacturer to claim a patent and hence fund the required double blind studies). Strontium is well tolerated, is more effective and more benign than biphosphonates.
The biphosphonates are just not good enough: not well tolerated (nausea) and 10% fossy jaw were the jaw bone literally rots out!

Researching sources of "health food" strontium as a cheaper substitute, show that Strontium citrate (available online from US) is 8% of the cost of off script strontium ranelate.

Progesterone & Bone Loss (1)

nido (102070) | more than 2 years ago | (#38281762)

Postmenopausal women lose bones because they don't produce nearly as much progesterone as they used to, while they still produce some 40-60% of the estrogen they used to make. "Hormone Replacement Therapy" poisoned women by supplementing estrogen and a fake progesterone, Provera, which the body is unable to convert into other hormones [wikipedia.org] .

Supplementing progesterone is a much better bone-salvager than bisphosphonates, but natural hormones can't get patented. Furthermore, you don't need a prescription for progesterone, because it is entirely safe at any dose (as compared to insulin, which is also available without a prescription, but which is exceedingly easy to overdose on), and was available before the 1930-something food & drug act went into effect (grandfathered in), and Doctors need to get people to come back for periodic appointments to get refills for prescriptions that only they can authorize.

Re:Progesterone & Bone Loss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38282564)

So male astronauts get to grow volouptous MOOBS?

Re:Progesterone & Bone Loss (1)

nido (102070) | more than 2 years ago | (#38282666)

Excess estrogen (usually produced by adipose tissue, but sometimes from pesticides or other sources of xenoestrogen/phytoextrogen) is what causes man-boobs.

If you examine the flow chart at my link, you'd see that progesterone is easily converted into testosterone, so the right amount will make male astronauts who are starved for progesterone precursors more manly.

HTH, hand.

Re:Biophosphonates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38286096)

Google osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). It occurs in about 10% of patients who take Bisphosphonates (I'll abreviate as bisphos) through IV, and a little less in people who take them orally. The problem is the bisphos binds to calcium and is integrated into the bone. When osteoclasts come along to resorb the bone (ie bone remodeling), the bisphos is released and damages all the cells around. All this can happen years after you stop taking bisphos.

Wrong approach (3, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38282448)

Using this sort of drugs for space trips is silly. If you want to _stay_ in space, build space stations or space craft that have artificial "gravity", not mess about with crap like this.

Artificial gravity is not an impossible problem - tethers and counterweights, docking at centre of mass. Plenty of options.

The big problem I see is adequate and cost effective radiation shielding. Once you solve radiation shielding and artificial gravity, you no longer need to "rush" to Mars before you rot or get irradiated to death.

If you don't solve these two problems first, trying to go to Mars or having long space trips is like a baby trying to jump before it is able to stand or walk. A waste of time and resources, and a bad idea.

Re:Wrong approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38282738)

Artificial gravity is not an impossible problem - tethers and counterweights, docking at centre of mass. Plenty of options.

...Like rotating hulls?

I want my Omega class destroyer. :(

Wait a second... (1)

byeley (2451634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38304974)

I'm pretty sure I've seen this one before...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kite_Liberator [wikipedia.org]

"Doi had been researching various methods of preserving bone mass in zero gravity conditions, leading to healthy but frequently unappetizing food... when it is found that Noguchi and another crew member have space radiation exposure and abnormally increased bone volume during a periodic medical check-up, Doi strangely questions the safety of his food, hinting that there may be more going on that is apparent...Orudo and the crew member have transformed into homicidal monsters, successfully killing most of crew members and ISS Police units."

My god.....

Centrifugal force (1)

pgpalmer (2015142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38309824)

So their solution to off-setting the effects of weightlessness is to take medications? I always thought that the problem could always be avoided by using the method of rotating a vessel to provide "gravity" around the outer edge.
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