NASA’s Astronaut Twins Study Results Out
It is no secret that a year in space can significantly affect a person. No gravity means that the organs are just floating around inside the body, to begin with. Also, the eating habits are certainly not the same. However, it seems that the differences can go beyond these.
NASA studied the effects of being in space for an entire year, with twin astronauts Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly as their control subjects. Scott, together with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, was the first to fly the first ever year-long mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Mark, at the time, stayed on the ground, serving as the experimental control, so that they could allow scientists to detect genetic changes induced by the space flight on Scott.
Space.com noted that early results already highlighted interesting developments. First of these developments included the length of telomeres -- regions at the ends of chromosomes in white blood cells. This could be taken to mean that it is linked to the increased exercise and reduced caloric intake during the mission. This surprised scientists considering that telomeres usually decrease in length as someone gets older.
However, as CNN pointed out, the chemical modifications that were seen in Scott's DNA during the trip in space returned to normal once he came back to Earth. The same thing happened around the midpoint of the study for Mark's end, which led scientists to believe that genes are actually sensitive to changing environments.
There are also other differences in the twins' DNA. However, it seems that it cannot all be chalked up to Scott's living arrangements for the year in the ISS. NASA found that there are hundreds of unique genetic mutations for both Scott and Mark.
The results are also at its preliminary stage. The Twins Study is expected to have a "joint summary publication" later in the year, where researchers can publish their findings in scientific journals.