NASA study confirms initial findings - Space can alter genes

NASA's astronaut who spent a whole year in space showed changes in his DNA

It's a groundbreaking discovery that has huge implications for space travel, and for long-term colonies on places like the moon or Mars.

Scientists have been trying for years to understand the effects of space on the human body, and they were presented with a great opportunity thanks to the fact that NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has a twin brother, Mark.

Scott Kelly and his twin brother, Mark Kelly-also an astronaut-were the subjects of the study that sought to find out exactly what happens to the body after a year in space.

In 2015, when Scott Kelly spent a year in space, NASA gave NASA the opportunity to examine the possible differences between monozygotic twins and to draw conclusions on how the human organism is affected by space. Later in 2018, an integrated summary publication of the Twin Study is expected to be released. Some changes returned to baseline within hours or days of landing, while a few persisted after six months. Ten research teams presented their preliminary findings a year ago at NASA's Human Research Program 2017 Investigators' Workshop (IWS).

Of particular interest were the changes to Scott's DNA.

In 2017, researchers discovered that the endcaps of Scott Kelly's chromosomes-his telomeres-had become longer while he was in space. This unexplained anomaly was verified with multiple assays and genomics testing. Increasing the mission from the typical six-month length to nearly one year resulted in no significant decreases in Scott's cognitive performance while in flight.

While Scott Kelly's height and 93 percent of his DNA returned to normal after returning to Earth, NASA confirmed that seven percent of his genes have remained changed and may stay that way. The space agency added that Kelly had hundreds of "space genes" activated by the year-long flight which reportedly altered the astronaut's "immune system, DNA fix, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia". The results of this study will be helpful in preparing for future space missions. This could be a significant issue in prolonged space travel.

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