Latest study confirms that space travel changes body at genetic level
NASA’s Scott Kelly who spent a year in space now has a different DNA from his twin brother. In a recent interview, the 54-year old former astronaut reacted to the changes he has gone through during his stay in extreme conditions of space.
“I did read in the newspaper the other day that 7 percent of my DNA had changed permanently. And I’m reading that, I’m like, ‘Huh, well that’s weird.’” Kelly said.
Scott Kelly returned to Earth in March 2016 after spending nearly one year in International Space Station. In the meantime, his identical twin brother Mark remained on Earth. NASA researchers found that to be a great opportunity for understanding the effects of space environment on human body and conducted a detailed genetic analysis of Scott Kelly and his twin brother Mark. They collected the blood and other biological samples of both men before and after the Scott Kelly’s one year long space mission.
The preliminary results for the “Twin Study” showed that space travel does more than making us weightless. Researchers looked at various biomarkers from chromosomes to the microbiomes in their guts and noticed a number of differences between the two. They concluded that spaceflight results in oxygen deprivation stress, increased inflammation, and dramatic nutrient shifts that affect gene expression.
Later study confirmed that 93% of Scott’s genes returned to normal after landing. However, the remaining 7% is possibly irreversible and points to longer term changes in genes associated with immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia.
The NASA Twins Study provided a unique opportunity for researchers to evaluate potential risks to the human body in space and it has implications for future deep space missions as NASA is aiming to send humans Mars and beyond.