Space travel may cause long-term change to DNA, reveals NASA's Twin Study

NASA Twins Study Verifies Long Term Health Effects of Space Travel

For the study, NASA measured metabolites, cytokines, and proteins from the astronaut.

The astronaut spent 340 days on the International Space Station in 2015 to 2016, along with Russian crewmate Mikhail Kornienko.

Ten research teams involved in the study found 7% of his genes did not return to normal after he landed.

This means that he and his identical twin brother are no longer genetically the same. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. NASA said this could indicate "longer term changes" in the genes caused by the stresses of spaceflight.

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However 7% of Scott's genes, the so-called space genes, pointed to possible longer term changes related to his immune system, DNA fix, mitochondria and bone formation. The 2018 IWS is Act 2, where findings from 2017 were corroborated, with some additions.

Preliminary results from the study were released at a NASA Human Research Program workshop in January, but were picked up by news outlets only in the last week, triggering a flurry of space mutant jokes and misleading headlines. Post-flight, NASA investigators found "hundreds of unique mutations". While most of these genetic changes reverted to normal following Scott Kelly's return to Earth, about 7 percent of the astronaut's genetic code remained altered - and it may stay that way permanently.

However, it turns out that your perspective on your own existence isn't the only thing that changes.

More than 200 researchers in 30 states are helping to analyze the Kelly brothers' various test results, looking for space-induced changes in Scott Kelly's cognition, metabolism, microbiome and many other physiological processes. And along with another research group, they have seen signs that the end caps on his chromosomes - called telomeres - may have gotten longer during spaceflight. First, there was a significant increase in average length while he was in space, and then there was a decrease in length within about 48 hours of his landing on Earth that stabilized to almost preflight levels. Problems like hypoxia - a condition in which the cells in his tissue lack the proper amount of oxygen - and mitochondrial damage were also investigated, along with changes to his collagen, blood clotting ability, and bone formation. The researchers plan on examining gut bacteria and bones, as well as trying to determine how the immune system responds to living off of Earth. If scientists are hoping to successfully launch a three-year mission to Mars, understanding how being in space affects one's DNA (for the better or worse) is no doubt an integral one.

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