NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA Changed in Space

Doris Richards
March 14, 2018

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. Per Live Science, even though Scott and Mark Kelly once boasted the same DNA makeup, Scott's almost yearlong trip on the International Space Station in 2015 and early 2016 changed all of that-leaving him with a lower body mass, altered gut bacteria, and a seeming growth spurt of 2 inches, among other shifts. It is clear that most of the changes that the astronaut went through have reversed following his return to planet Earth, however, 7 per cent of Scott's genetic code remains altered and it might as well stay the same permanently.

NASA attributed this to "the stresses of space travel, which can cause changes in a cell's biological pathways and ejection of DNA and RNA".

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. At present, astronauts only spend six months on the International Space Station as standard. A Mars mission would last as long as three years, which would obviously be the longest stretch that any human has been away from Earth.

"Oftentimes, when the body encounters something foreign, an immune response is activated", Christopher Mason, a Twins Study researcher and associate professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Business Insider.

The Twins Study Investigators came from around the country to meet and share their final research results at the annual Human Research Program Investigators' Workshop held in Galveston, Texas in January 2018.

The researchers linked space travel to oxygen deprivation stress, increased inflammation and striking nutrient shifts that affect gene expression. When Scott returned to Earth 340 days later, one thing became evident - the brothers were no longer identical. Some changes returned to baseline within hours or days of landing, while a few persisted after six months. "Additionally, a new finding is that the majority of those telomeres shortened within two days of Scott's return to Earth". Researchers now know that 93 percent of Scott's genes returned to normal after landing. At least this was the result of NASA analyzes, after which the scientists announced that their DNA had been changed by 7%. This summary is set to be released later this year.

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