Sci-tech

NASA Twins Study: Extended Space Stay Alters Astronaut's DNA

NASA Twins Study: Extended Space Stay Alters Astronaut's DNA

Researchers found that while in space there was a relatively significant change to Scott's gene expression: the endcaps of his chromosomes (called "telomeres") had become elongated.

NASA has confirmed that astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA was altered after spending a year in space.

Prior to the Twin study, NASA researchers were only aware of the effects of living in space up to six months at a time.

NASA has learned astronaut Scott Kelly and his identical twin- astronaut Mark Kelly- are no longer genetically the same. The study looked at what a year in space did to Scott Kelly while Mark Kelly spent the year on Earth.

"After returning to Earth, Scott started the process of readapting to Earth's gravity".

Results from the study were released in January at the 2018 Investigator's Workshop for Nasa's Human Research Programme.

According to the study, scientists measured the Kelly brothers' metabolites, which are necessary for maintaining life, cytokines that are normally secreted by cells in the immune system, and proteins - the powerhouses within each cell.

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Most of the changes, due to factors such as oxygen deprivation stress, increased inflammation and a restricted diet, returned to their pre-flight state.

After the return of Scott to the Ground only 93% of his DNA returned to normal.

They believe some of the gene mutations could have been caused by the stresses of space travel.

Scientists found that Scott Kelly, who set the record for most consecutive days spent in orbit, underwent an "unexpected" genetic change.

NASA clarifies in the report 93 percent of Scott Kelly's genes returned to normal after he came home, but that the missing 7 percent points "to possible longer-term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA fix, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia". Hypoxia (the response to low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels), mitochondrial stress and damage, telomere length and DNA damage and fix (likely from radiation and diet restriction), collagen and bone formation (possible from zero gravity and fluid shifts), and hyperactive immune activity were all catalogued by Chris Mason, of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Astronaut Scott Kelly is remarkable for many reasons. However, none of these changes were big enough to generate major changes in body function; Scott himself said that he was surprised to hear that his DNA had been changed in an interview with MarketWatch. The goal of his long stay on the ISS was to study changes in the body in space.


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