You're a guinea pig in outer space 24/7 "We are all basically living breathing, experiments" in space, Coleman says. Astronauts are healthy, fit people with fairly normal medical histories, which makes them the perfect lab rats, er, subjects for testing new drugs. During her time aboard the ISS, Coleman volunteered to test a new osteoporosis medication because, in space, humans lose bone mass 10 times faster. "The amount of bone mass a 70-year-old woman with full-blown osteoporosis loses in one year, we can lose in one month," Coleman says.
Because osteoporosis settles in so quickly in space, researchers were able to test the drug's abilities and study the effects of going on a low salt, low animal fat diet, and zero in on how exercise maintains muscle and bone mass. While research is still being conducted on the different regions of bone where mass is lost and regained, we're happy to report that Coleman came back to our planet with the same amount of bone she left with.
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