Perspective on the impact of weightlessness on calcium and bone metabolism

Bone. 1998 May;22(5 Suppl):105S-111S. doi: 10.1016/s8756-3282(98)00014-3.


As humans venture into space to colonize the moon and travel to distant planets in the 21st century, they will be confronted with a bone disease that could potentially limit their space exploration activities or put them at risk for fracture when they return to earth. It is now recognized that an unloading of the skeleton, either due to strict bed rest or in zero gravity, leads on average to a 1%-2% reduction in bone mineral density at selected skeletal sites each month. The mechanism by which unloading of the skeleton results in rapid mobilization of calcium stores from the skeleton is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to down regulation in PTH and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 production. Bone modeling and mineralization in chick embryos is not affected by microgravity, suggesting that bone cells adapt and ultimately become addicted to gravity in order to maintain a structurally sound skeleton. Strategies need to be developed to decrease microgravity-induced bone resorption by either mimicking gravity's effect on bone metabolism, or enhancing physically or pharmacologically bone formation in order to preserve astronauts' bone health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Development
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcification, Physiologic
  • Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Humans
  • Parathyroid Hormone / metabolism
  • Space Flight
  • Weightlessness*


  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Calcitriol
  • Calcium