Newly released results from a NASA study show that the DNA of astronaut Scott Kelly was altered while in space and is no longer identical to his twin brother, Mark Kelly.
Kelly returned to Earth after spending a year aboard the International Space Station.
Dubbed “The Twin Study,” NASA monitored Kelly’s “metabolites, cytokines, and proteins to learn how space travel affects biological systems,” The Hill reported.
“The Twin Study propelled NASA into the genomics era of space travel,” NASA said in a statement. “It was a ground-breaking study comparing what happened to astronaut Scott Kelly, in space, to his identical twin brother, Mark, who remained on Earth The perfect nature versus nurture study was born.”
According to Space.com, most of Kelly’s biological changes returned to normal levels after returning to Earth.
However, the study found that seven percent of his genes may have long-term changes.
What? My DNA changed by 7%! Who knew? I just learned about it in this article. This could be good news! I no longer have to call @ShuttleCDRKelly my identical twin brother anymore. https://t.co/6idMFtu7l5
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) March 10, 2018
According to NASA, the study’s results bring them one step closer to a three-year mission to Mars.
“NASA has a grasp on what happens to the body after the standard-duration six-month missions aboard the International Space Station, but Scott Kelly’s one-year mission is a stepping stone to a three-year mission to Mars,” a statement from NASA explained.
Before a more lengthy Mars excursion, NASA needs to find out the effects of weightlessness, isolation, radiation and stress on the human body, WHNT reported.
“The Twins Study has benefited NASA by providing the first application of genomics to evaluate potential risks to the human body in space,” NASA said in the release.
Researchers learned that paceflight is associated with “oxygen-deprivation stress, increased inflammation and dramatic nutrient shifts that affect gene expression.”
See Kelly speak about the effects being in space had on his body:
NASA’s statement concluded, “Research from the landmark Twins Study will inform NASA’s Human Research Program studies for years to come, as NASA continues to prioritize the health and safety of astronauts on spaceflight missions.”
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