NASA wants to put humans back on Mars in the future, and the mission has a wealth of technical challenges to overcome. While some researchers are working out the technology and hardware for the mission, others are focusing on making sure when the astronauts reach Mars 9 months after leaving Earth they still have the muscle strength to stand.
Harvard researchers have published a study that shows that resveratrol substantially preserves muscle mass and strength in rats exposed to the wasting effects of simulated Mars gravity. Resveratrol is a component found in red wine. The scientists say that one of the hardest-hit muscles in the human body is a muscle in the calf called the soleus.
After only three weeks in space, that muscle shrinks by a third. The team says that this is also accompanied by a loss of slow-twitch muscle fibers that are needed for endurance. Resveratrol is a component commonly found in grape skin and blueberries. The study has shown that the compound can preserve bone and muscle mass in rats during complete unloading, which is similar to the microgravity experienced in space flight.
To mimic low gravity in the rats, they were placed in a harness and suspended inside their cage. Half the rats received resveratrol 150mg/kg/day in their water while others were given regular water. Both rat groups fed from the same food freely.
After 14 days, the calf muscles were analyzed, and the front and rear paw grip force was measured. As expected, the Mars conditions rats not given the resveratrol saw grip strength and calf muscle declines. The rats treated with resveratrol had almost the same grip strength as rats subjected to normal Earth conditions. Dosing the rat with resveratrol didn’t impact food intake or total body weight.