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Stable Calcium Isotopes in Urine as a Biomarker of Bone Mineral Balance in Spaceflight

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Long duration human spaceflight leads to loss of bone mass. As a consequence, there is a need for techniques to sensitively detect changes in the net rate of bone formation or resorption (i.e., changes in "bone mineral balance") and to assess the effectiveness of countermeasures. We have documented, in bed rest experiments, that measurements of the Ca isotope composition of urine using mass spectrometry can be used to monitor rapid changes in net bone mineral balance that are not directly observable by other means (1, 2). We propose to extend these experiments to the International Space Station (ISS), in order to demonstrate the utility of Ca isotopes as a tool for monitoring bone mineral balance and countermeasures to bone resorption in space. This proposal builds on a successful existing collaboration between researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) and Johnson Space Center (JSC) to study and apply the Ca isotope method as a bone biomarker (2, 3). The proposed project paves the way for future development of capability to measure Ca isotopes in-flight, to monitor bone health during exploration-class space missions where in situ evaluation of countermeasure effectiveness will be required to assure crew health and safety. The project will also have broad clinical application for Earth-based populations. Our proposal falls under the Spaceflight Biochemical Profile Human Research Program (HRP) research emphasis, and addresses Integrated Research Plan (IRP) Gap N3: How do nutritional status/nutrition requirements change during spaceflight?


(1). Morgan JL, Skulan JL, Gordon GW, Romaniello SJ, Smith SM, Anbar AD (2012). Rapidly assessing changes in bone mineral balance using natural stable calcium isotopes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109, 9989-9994;

(2). Skulan J, Bullen T, Anbar AD, Puzas JE, Shackelford L, LeBlanc A, Smith SM (2007). Natural calcium isotopic composition of urine as a marker of bone mineral balance. Clin. Chem. 53,1155-1158;

(3). Morgan JLL, Skulan JL, Gordon GW, Romaniello SJ, Smith SM and Anbar AD (2011). High-precision measurement of variations in calcium isotope ratios in urine by multiple collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Anal. Chem. 83, 6956–6962.

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