Assessment of the effect of space flight on bone quality using three-dimensional high resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT) (TBone) - 09.19.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Humans develop strong, dense bones in part by supporting the body’s weight, but this important bone-building activity is lost in people with limited mobility and crew members living in microgravity. The Assessment of the effect of space flight on bone quality using three-dimensional high resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT) (TBone) investigation studies spaceflight’s effects on bone quality using a new technique called three-dimensional high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT). This type of bone scan measures bone density and structure, allowing scientists to distinguish changes in bone health and strength that result from microgravity or extended periods of immobilization.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Luchino Cohen, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Steven K. Boyd, Ph.D., University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Anna-Marie Liphardt, Ph.D., German Sport University Cologne, Köln, Germany
Martina A. Heer, Ph.D., University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
Jean Sibonga, Ph.D., NASA, Houston, TX, United States
Scott M. Smith, Ph.D., NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

University of Calgary, Canada

Sponsoring Space Agency
Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

Sponsoring Organization
Information Pending

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2015 - March 2016; March 2016 - April 2019

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The long-term goal of Assessment of the effect of space flight on bone quality using three-dimensional high resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT) (TBone) is to establish non-invasive methods to quantify bone structure and bone strength for the assessment of bone health. The understanding of bone loss patterns is a vital step toward understanding the mechanisms of bone loss, and to identify whether bone loss can be reduced or halted.
  • There are two broad objectives, namely:
    1. The investigation of the relation between bone loss patterns in subjects exposed to microgravity by using new non-invasive method (HR-pQCT).
    2. The determination of parameters that may identify individuals with heightened sensitivity to bone loss using the correlation between micro-structural parameters such as: bone volume ratio, trabecular (honeycomb like structure which provides support in bones) thickness, and extent and rate of bone loss.

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Space Applications
Crew members experience several changes to their bones during spaceflight, including a loss of bone density and changes to the way bone remakes itself. As a result of these changes, space missions could increase the risk of fractures, even later in life. Bone scanning using HR-pQCT can identify crew members for whom spaceflight poses a greater risk of bone density loss, both immediately after a spaceflight and later in the future. Results from this investigation are compared with existing bone loss measures to determine how at-risk crew members may be identified.

Earth Applications
Results from this investigation benefit people on Earth who suffer from bone density loss, a common problem affecting anyone from middle-aged women, to patients on bed rest. Scanning patients with HR-pQCT could identify people who are predisposed to bone loss, leading to personalized treatments. Studying how the microgravity environment affects bone health can also help scientists better understand the process of bone loss and degeneration.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
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Decadal Survey Recommendations

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Results/More Information

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Related Websites

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Three dimensional structure of a human tibia obtained by high-resolution-peripheral quantitative computer tomography (HR-pQCT) scanning and showing compact bone (periphery) and trabecular bone (center). (Credit Bone Imaging Laboratory, University of Calgary, Canada)

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