Evaluation of potentially significant increase of lead in the blood during long-term bed rest and space flight Academic Article uri icon

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  • We address a gap in the knowledge of lead turnover under conditions of prolonged bed rest and microgravity by developing a quantitative model of the amount of lead returned to blood circulation from bone. We offer the hypothesis that skeletal unloading, such as typically occurs during extended bed rest or microgravity, will result in bone lead being released to the blood, as has already been demonstrated in the case of calcium. We use initial bone lead concentrations to develop predictive models of blood lead elevation. Our theoretical calculations with typical bone lead loads measured in today's 40-60-year-old generation, suggest that the estimated blood lead concentrations in long duration (e.g., 100 days) space flight could average between 20 and 40 microg dl(-1), a range with well-established toxic effects. For a similar duration of bed rest, estimated blood lead concentration could be as high as 10-20 microg dl(-1), which is a level of concern, particularly if we consider females of childbearing age. The preliminary experimental results were obtained under multi-institutional collaborations, with the main outcome received from an on-going bed rest study, Prevention of Microgravity-Induced Stone Risk by KMgCitrate, conducted at the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. Based on theoretical modeling and some preliminary experimental results, this concept may have important clinical implications by allowing prediction of the magnitude of blood lead elevation, thereby establishing the means to prevent lead toxicity during long duration space flight of astronauts and in conditions of prolonged bed rest such as complicated pregnancy, spinal cord injury induced paralysis and comatose patients.


  • Kondrashov, Vladislav
  • Rothenberg, Stephen J
  • Chettle, David
  • Zerwekh, Joseph

publication date

  • February 1, 2005