DNA of identical twin astronaut changes after time in space, Nasa finds

DNA of identical twin astronaut changes after time in space, Nasa finds

Mark and Scott Kelly are identical twin brothers, to say the least, they were identical until Scott got the opportunity to spend a year in space.

Scientists found that after spending a year in space, Scott Kelly's genes were no longer an exact match to his brother Mark. This includes changes in his immune system, DNA fix process, bone formation networks, oxygen deficiency in the bloodstream, and an excess of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.

They believe some of the gene mutations could have been caused by the stresses of space travel.

NASA says research like this is needed before astronauts are sent on journeys like a planned three-year mission to Mars.

These findings are valuable in helping understand what happens to humans while in space, especially over long periods of time, as the potential for a manned mission to Mars appears more and more likely.

The findings showed that after returning to Earth, Scott started the process of readapting to Earth's gravity. "Such actions can trigger the assembly of new molecules, like a fat or protein, cellular degradation, and can turn genes on and off, which change cellular function".

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Scott (right) and Mark (left) Kelly.

Results from the study were released in January at the 2018 Investigator's Workshop for Nasa's Human Research Programme. The study itself focused on four categories of research split into 10 investigations to evaluate the identical twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly.

About 7 percent of Kelly's genes have yet to "return to normal" ― nearly two years after his yearlong expedition came to an end. Scott's telomeres (endcaps of chromosomes that shorten as one ages) actually became significantly longer in space.

In this July 12, 2015 photo, Astronaut Scott Kelly takes a photo of himself inside the Cupola, a special module of the International Space Station which provides a 360-degree viewing of the Earth. Once again using mice, the study found that stress did indeed contribute to shortening telomeres and that this happening is perhaps a metabolic reaction to stress. After Scott returned to Earth from his year-long mission, it took his body time to re-adapt to Earth's gravity. Six months later, scientists found that his genes had undergone seemingly permanent changes.

The changes in Kelly's physiology have persisted even after his return to earth.

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

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