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

NASA Twins Study Verifies Long Term Health Effects of Space Travel

Last year, NASA published its first round of results from the Twins Study at the Investigator's Workshop for Human Research Program - and the findings this year largely corroborated them. It's a groundbreaking discovery that has huge implications for space travel, and for long-term colonies on places like the moon or Mars.

One-Year Mission & Twins Study The two astronauts began their year in space on March 27, 2015, and returned to Earth on March 1, 2016. And how could it be different since they are monozygotic twins.

Astronaut Scott Kelly set a record for the longest single spaceflight in history and now NASA is saying the trip made him a "new man" as well. As the saying goes, science takes time. My DNA changed by 7%! Scientists found that after spending a year in space, Scott Kelly's genes were no longer an exact match to his brother Mark.

The space agency studied the DNA of twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. While Scott spent a year in space for the experiment, Mark remained on Earth as the control subject.

"All of these findings are being integrated and summarized by the research teams; researchers are also evaluating the possible impact that these findings will have on future space travel beyond low Earth orbit", NASA officials said.

Most biological fluctuations quickly reached baseline; some took hours or days, while a few persisted after six months.




NASA originally released some of the basic findings a year ago, but further reported details at the Investigators' Workshop in January.

But some of the biological changes may be simply due to differences in diet, environment, and individual immunity - factors not related to the gravity-less stretch beyond Earth's atmosphere, NASA added in its reporting of the latest results.

Some changes - like the lengthening of Scott's telomeres, or the endcaps of chromosomes that shorten over time - reversed once he was subject to Earth's gravity again. This unexplained anomaly was verified with multiple assays and genomics testing. When Scott returned to Earth 340 days later, one thing became evident - the brothers were no longer identical.

While 93 percent of his genetic expression has returned to normal, several hundred "space genes" have remained altered, the data suggests. Now two years later, NASA says 7 percent of Scott's DNA has changed, meaning the brothers are no longer identical. Hypercapnia refers to excessive carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, typically caused by inadequate respiration.

At the same time, the report indicated that Scott Kelly experienced no significant changes when it came to cognitive performance.

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