ABSTRACT: Immobility in bed and decreased mobility cause adaptations to most human body systems. The effect of immobility on fat accumulation in hemopoietic bone marrow has never been measured prospectively. The reversibility of marrow fat accumulation and the effects on hemopoiesis are not known. In the present study, 24 healthy women (age: 25-40 yr) underwent -6 degrees head-down bed rest for 60 days. We used MRI to noninvasively measure the lumbar vertebral fat fraction at various time points. We also measured hemoglobin, erythropoietin, reticulocytes, leukocytes, platelet count, peripheral fat mass, leptin, cortisol, and C-reactive protein during bed rest and for 1 yr after bed rest ended. Compared with baseline, the mean (+/-SE) fat fraction was increased after 60 days of bed rest (+2.5+/-1.1%, P<0.05); the increase persisted 1 yr after the resumption of regular activities (+2.3+/-0.8%, P<0.05). Mean hemoglobin levels were significantly decreased 6 days after bed rest ended (-1.36+/-0.20 g/dl, P<0.05) but had recovered at 1 yr, with significantly lower mean circulating erythropoietin levels (-3.8+/-1.2 mU/ml, P<0.05). Mean numbers of neutrophils and lymphocytes remained significantly elevated at 1 yr (+617+/-218 neutrophils/microl and +498+/-112 lymphocytes/microl, both P<0.05). These results constitute direct evidence that bed rest irreversibly accelerated fat accumulation in hemopoietic bone marrow. The 2.5% increase in fat fraction after 60 days of bed rest was 25-fold larger than expected from historical ambulatory controls. Sixty days of bed rest accelerated by 4 yr the normal bone marrow involution. Bed rest and marrow adiposity were associated with hemopoietic stimulation. One year after subjects returned to normal activities, hemoglobin levels were maintained, with 43% lower circulating erythropoietin levels, and leukocytes remained significantly elevated across lineages. Lack of mobility alters hemopoiesis, possibly through marrow fat accumulation, with potentially wide-ranging clinical consequences.
Journal of Applied Physiology 05/2009; 107(2):540-8. · 3.75 Impact Factor