Program Description

The Bone Biology Laboratory (BBL) began on the Texas A&M campus in 1993. In 1997, research funding from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) made it possible for the BBL to hire full time staff for day-to-day running of the lab. The lab's director, Dr. Susan Bloomfield, currently oversees a staff that includes one half-time lab manager, an assistant research scientist, five graduate students, and three undergraduates. Much of the research at the BBL deals with bone loss that occurs while astronauts are in space. With space flight, there is a potential for bone fracture since during six month missions. Astronauts lose bone density ten times faster than post-menopausal women.

 

The BBL has been able to collect data on changes in bone and muscle from rats exposed to reduced weight bearing, which simulates quite well the weightless environment of space. The hope is to optimize the factors during the mission to counter bone loss and address answers for the long term for astronauts once they return to Earth and normal gravity. Under current practice, the space agency does not release medical data on astronauts to the general public. Select researchers can access those data, but it's a long and arduous process, and it usually requires grant funding from NASA, NSBRI or related agencies.

 

Other studies performed by the Bone Biology Laboratory have been helpful for the Department of Defense as they address weight loss in the military. There is a correlation between prolonged restriction of diet calories and bone cell activity in the body. This type of research is useful for the armed services addressing issues with overweight people enlisting in the service. And it will also have effects on career officers who usually don't get the same amount of exercise they did in their younger days.