The unilateral lower limb suspension (ULLS) method was developed, introduced, and validated in the quest for a simple, effective, and highly reliable human analog to study the consequences of spaceflight on muscle size and function. Because withdrawal of weight bearing for no more than 2–3 days is sufficient to inflict disturbances in protein metabolism of postural muscles, it is imperative ULLS serves as a very powerful method to manifest skeletal muscle adaptations similar to those experienced in 0 g. Thus the rate of global muscle loss appears rather constant over the first 2 mo, amounting to about 2–3% per week. At the microscopic level, these changes are accompanied by a corresponding decrease in individual muscle fiber size. ULLS alters metabolism favoring more carbohydrate over fat substrate utilization. Altogether, these changes result in impaired work and endurance capacity of muscles being subjected to ULLS. Maximal voluntary force decreases out of proportion to the muscle loss, suggesting motor control is modified. Past reviews offer near exhaustive information on ULLS-induced responses with regard to the above changes. Hence, the current brief review describes more broadly the evolution of the ULLS model, from issues of subject recruitment and compliance control, to recent advances unraveling molecular mechanisms facilitating unloading-induced muscle wasting. Such knowledge is critical in designing future studies aimed at exploring and developing exercise countermeasures or other means to combat the debilitating effects on muscle experienced by astronauts during long-haul missions in Orbit.
- muscle atrophy
- skeletal muscle protein breakdown and synthesis
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society