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NASA Shows How Space Changes Human Genes in Twin Astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly

Feb 03, 2017 11:20 AM EST
LocationWorld 2016 - Day 1
The initial finding of NASA's twin study was recently released. There were observable changes that occurred to Scott Kelly, one of the twins who stayed in space compared to his other twin Mark Kelly.
(Photo : Brian Ach/Getty Images for LocationWorld 2016)

NASA released the results of the recently concluded twin study that was geared towards discovering the changes that a human being undergoes when in space. Twin astronaut Scott and Mark Kelly served as the case studies for the experiment.

In order to perform the experiment, Mark stayed on Earth while Scott performed his duty aboard the ISS. During the testing period, both were closely monitored. The agency finally revealed the riveting results that clearly show how microgravity influences a person.

The twin study was conducted under the NASA Human Research Program. Scott Kelly, the twin who performed his ISS duties, arrived on Earth last March after spending a year in space while his twin, also an astronaut, remained on Earth.

To discover how space can influence the human body and how the body reacted to both nature and nurture circumstance, biological samples were taken from both Mark and Scott during the one-year period.

Although there's still ongoing analysis, the researchers were able to divulge some initial findings from the twin study. Miky Snyder, an Integrated Omics investigator, said there was an altered level of lipids with Scott who spent time in space and a presence of 3-indoleproplonic (IPA) in Mark. IPA, according to NASA, helps keep the insulin activities at a normal level.

There were expansions of the telomeres in the chromosomes on Scott's white blood cells that indicate an increase while spending time in space, as per the findings of Susan Bailey. "Almost everyone is reporting that we see differences", Christopher Mason, a geneticist said in an interview. "The data are so fresh that some of them are still coming off the sequencing machines,"

Another analysis shows that there is no vital effect on the cognitive performance. But Scott Smith, from the Biochemical Profile Investigation, noted that there appeared to be a decline in bone formation during the second half of Scott's mission in space.

Some other points of the study are looking into the difference in bacterial activity in both twins. The changes in DNA sequencing are also being investigated and compared, and researchers are particularly looking into a "space gene" that could be a result of spending time in microgravity.

NASA is expected to continue studying the effect of microgravity and space to humans to ensure the safety of future space explorations.

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