The article states that a generic beta-blocker, when administered to patients who have suffered severe injury, was shown to reduce the common muscle-wasting condition known as hypermetabolism. Has this technique ever been considered for or shown effective in reducing inactive muscle wasting, as would occur in a long-term space voyage?

Dwain L. Beaver
Dayton, Ohio

“It’s a reasonable hypothesis” that has not been tested, says Robert R. Wolfe of the University of Texas in Galveston. Wolfe, one of the authors of the study cited in the article, is collaborating with NASA on research relating to muscle loss from prolonged inactivity. Unfortunately, he says, the heart-slowing effect of beta-blockers–which isn’t an issue among burn victims because they have elevated heart rates–might render the drugs unusable by people trying to retain muscle during space voyages. “Decreased cardiovascular performance would override in importance any beneficial effect [from using beta-blockers to reduce] the rate of loss of muscle mass,” he proposes. –B. Harder