NASA Study of Kelly Astronaut Twins Shows 'Space Genes' Differences

NASA Study of Kelly Astronaut Twins Shows 'Space Genes' Differences

NASA Study of Kelly Astronaut Twins Shows 'Space Genes' Differences

Also Scott Kelly found hundreds of "space genes" that were activated as a result of the flight, which reportedly changed the immune system of the astronaut DNA network of the bone and affects other processes.

In this photo provided by NASA, International Space Station (ISS) crew member Scott Kelly of the US gestures after landing near the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

Following a triumphant homecoming, Scott, still readapting to Earth's gravity, became a NASA lab rat, completing tests to determine changes in his pre- and post-flight status.

But Kelly's most remarkable feat was recently revealed to be a byproduct of his ultralong space runs: Kelly's DNA has changed so much that it no longer matches that of his identical twin, Mark Kelly. Scott's voyage is now the longest documented space mission completed by an astronaut, and is a stepping stone to a three-year mission to Mars.

The transformation of 7 percent of Scott's DNA suggests longer-term changes in genes related to at least five biological pathways and functions. While Scott spent a year in space for the experiment, Mark remained on Earth as the control subject. But he did exhibit a pronounced decrease in speed and accuracy post-flight, which NASA attributed to Scott's re-exposure and adjustment to Earth's gravity, along with his busy schedule.

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Scott Kelly (on the left), and Mikhail Korniyenko (on the right), were selected for the one-year mission in 2012.

The only identical twin astronauts in history, the Kellys provided a flawless opportunity for a nature-versus-nurture study. That seven percent mismatch - which scientists are now calling "space genes" - represents changes in RNA and DNA that are likely the result of oxygen deprivation, radiation, and calorie restriction, among other factors. "Some changes returned to baseline within hours or days of landing, while a few persisted after six months".

NASA described the research as a "perfect nature versus nurture study" ― one that could provide important insights into the effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body. But that's not all - Scott's genetic code was different. Regions of the genome can have differing numbers of a gene.

President Donald Trump announced his intentions to fund NASA to send astronauts to Mars.

The study was conducted by NASA's Human Research Program, and the preliminary findings were released at their Investigator's Workshop on the week of 23 January 2017. An integrated summary publication is expected later this year, the agency indicates.

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