The musculoskeletal system provides the body with correct posture, support, stability, and mobility. It is composed of the bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissues. Without effective countermeasures, prolonged spaceflight under microgravity results in marked muscle and bone atrophy. The molecular and physiological mechanisms of this atrophy under unloaded conditions are gradually being revealed through spaceflight experiments conducted by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency using a variety of model organisms, including both aquatic and terrestrial animals, and terrestrial experiments conducted under the Living in Space project of the Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. Increasing our knowledge in this field will lead not only to an understanding of how to prevent muscle and bone atrophy in humans undergoing long-term space voyages but also to an understanding of countermeasures against age-related locomotive syndrome in the elderly.
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