NASA Twin Astronaut Study Reveals Genetic Changes In Twin Astronaut Brothers Scott Kelly And Mark Kelly

First Posted: Jan 31, 2017 03:29 AM EST

Space travel is something that not many of us can experience. As thrilling as it sounds, it puts a lot of pressure on body functioning. The NASA twin astronaut study was initiated to understand what exactly are the changes that the body does to adjust itself.

Retired twin astronaut brothers, Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly, were the subjects of the NASA twin astronaut study, in which the genetic expression of the twin brothers was studied. The chromosome and microbiome of Scott Kelly, who has spent 340 consecutive 340 in 2015-2016 in space, was studied in relation to brother Mark Kelly, who was on Earth during the study period. Mark is also an astronaut and has spent a total of 54 days in space during his multiple space missions, in 2001 to 2011, while Scott has spent a total of 520 days during his entire career of being an astronaut.

Gadgets 360 reported that being twin brothers, Scott and Mark have similar genetic profile, which provides an opportunity to study the change in structure and function of genetic material because of space travel.

Christopher Mason, geneticist from Weill Cornell Medicine and also the chief contributor in the project, informed that changes can be observed in the chromosome lengths and composition of gut microbiota; "almost everyone is reporting that we see differences."

The early findings of the NASA twin astronaut study were reported in the form of a report in the Nature Journal. As per the report, when Scott returned to Earth, it was found that his telomeres (the endings of each chromosome that functions as protective caps of the DNA strands) were longer than those of Mark's, Tech Times reported.

It was also found that DNA methylation was considerably decreased in Scott during his stay in space and increased in Mark's. Andrew Feinberg, expert geneticist at Johns Hopkins University, said, "What this means isn't yet clear."

Other changes that occurred in Scott's body are similar to the genetic changes that are likely to happen in human beings when they are exposed to stressful environmental conditions. These can be attributed to the change in routine, sleeping while floating in low gravity conditions and eating freeze dried and preserved food.

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