Efficacy of Testosterone plus NASA Exercise Countermeasures during Head-Down Bed Rest


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Abstract

IntroductionProlonged confinement to head-down bed rest (HDBR) results in musculoskeletal losses similar to those observed during long-duration space flight. Exercise countermeasures by themselves have not completely prevented the deleterious losses in muscle mass or function in HDBR or space flight.PurposeThe objective was to investigate the safety and efficacy of intermittent, low-dose testosterone treatment in conjunction with NASA exercise (SPRINT) countermeasures during 70 d of 6° HDBR.MethodsHealthy men (35 ± 8 yr) were randomized into one of three groups that remained inactive (CON) or performed exercise 6 d·wk−1 in addition to receiving either placebo (PEX) or testosterone treatment (TEX, 100 mg·wk−1). Testosterone/placebo injections were administered once a week for 2 wk, followed by 2 wk off and so on, during HDBR.ResultsTotal, leg, and trunk lean body mass (LBM) consistently decreased in CON, increased in TEX, and had little or no changes in PEX. Total, leg, and trunk fat mass consistently increased in CON and PEX and decreased in TEX. Leg strength decreased in CON, whereas PEX and TEX were protected against loss in strength. Changes in leg LBM correlated positively with changes in leg muscle strength.ConclusionsAddition of a testosterone countermeasure enhanced the preventative actions of exercise against body composition changes during long-term HDBR in healthy eugonadal men. This is the first report to demonstrate that cycled, low-dose testosterone treatment increases LBM under conditions of strict exercise control. These results are clinically relevant to the development of safe and effective therapies against muscle atrophy during long-term bed rest, aging, and disease where loss of muscle mass and strength is a risk. The potential space flight applications of such countermeasure combinations deserve further investigations.

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