An Astronaut's DNA to no Longer Match with his Identical Twin's

An Astronaut's DNA to no Longer Match with his Identical Twin's

- After a year in space, an astronaut's genes were transformed, and no longer matches his twin, according to a NASA study.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth after a year of space travel and new studies reveal that his DNA is now different from that of his identical twin brother, Mark Kelly.

The newest preliminary results from this unique study of Kelly, now retired from NASA, were released at the 2018 Investigator's Workshop for NASA's Human Research Program in January.

'When he went up into space it was like fireworks of gene expression, ' Christopher Mason, a principal investigator on the NASA twins study and an associate professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Business Insider.

The altered genes are related to Scott Kelly's immune system, DNA fix and bone formation networks, among other bodily functions.

Kelly said he was surprised by that change in a recent interview with Marketplace.

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"And I'm reading that, I'm like: 'Huh, well that's weird"'.

To track physical changes caused by the time spent in space, researchers estimated Scott's metabolites (vital for maintaining life), cytokines (secreted by immune system cells) and proteins (workhorses inside every cell) previously, amid and after his mission. We know there are aspects of being in space that are not a pleasant experience, and this is the molecular manifestation of the body responding to that stress'.

Scientists compared the effects of space travel to Scott's twin, Mark, who remained on Earth and was treated as the control subject in the study. Last March, Scott was two inches taller when he returned from his mission than he had been when he left.

The height difference was caused by the ISS' microgravity conditions which elongate the spine - but the effect was only temporary.

Mason's team also saw changes in the length of Kelly's telomeres, caps at the end of chromosomes that are considered a marker of biological aging. They witnessed a 7% change in gene expression. First, there was a significant increase in average length while he was in space, and then there was a decrease in length within about 48 hours of his landing on Earth that stabilized to almost preflight levels.

The long-term effects of space habitation are still unknown and the space agency said the experiment was a stepping stone for its mission to Mars.

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