After A Year In Space, NASA Astronaut's Genes Have Changed. Possibly For Good.


After spending a year in space, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is not the man he used to be - at least genetically speaking.

His genetic expression has changed, according to preliminary results from a NASA study that compared the bodily changes between the astronaut and his identical twin, who stayed on Earth while Kelly was aboard the International Space Station.

About 7 percent of Kelly's genes have yet to "return to normal" ― almost two years after his yearlong expedition came to an end. Kelly has since retired from NASA.

The Twins Study, as it's been dubbed, looked at what happened to Kelly - both from a physiological and psychological perspective - before, during and after his trip in space, and then compared that data to Kelly's twin brother, Mark.

Mark Kelly is also a retired NASA astronaut. Unlike his brother, however, who spent months at a time in space, Mark's missions were on the shorter side. His last ― and longest ― mission, which took place in 2011, lasted 15 days.

NASA described the research as a "perfect nature versus nurture study" ― one that could provide important insights into the effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body.

"By measuring large numbers of [the brothers'] metabolites, cytokines and proteins, researchers learned that spaceflight is associated with oxygen deprivation stress, increased inflammation, and dramatic nutrient shifts that affect gene expression," NASA said of the study's initial findings.

Although most of the biological changes Kelly experienced in space disappeared in the hours and days (and in some cases, weeks) after his return to Earth, NASA said some alterations appear to have persisted.

While 93 percent of his genetic expression has returned to normal, several hundred "space genes" have remained altered, the data suggests. NASA said this could indicate "longer term changes" in the genes caused by the stresses of spaceflight.

NASA said it would be releasing more findings from the Twins Study in the coming months. This research, they added, will inform their planning for a mission to Mars, which would see astronauts spending some three years in space.

Reacting to the news of the study results this week, Kelly expressed amazement at his body's changes ― and also used the opportunity to poke fun at his brother.

"This could be good news," he joked on Twitter. "I no longer have to call [Mark] my identical twin brother anymore."


More Related News

50 years after Apollo moonshots, will rivalry with China spark a new space race?
50 years after Apollo moonshots, will rivalry with China spark a new space race?

WASHINGTON, D.C. - An American rivalry with China could stoke a new space race in the years ahead, prominent members of the space community said at a session marking the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo missions. But it may not play out the way the U.S.-Soviet space race did, said Scott Pace, executive secretary for the White House's National Space Council.  Billionaire-backed space efforts such as Elon Musk's SpaceX and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin could play a leading role, he said. "China has billionaires, too," Pace said today at the ScienceWriters 2018 conference, held at George Washington University. "China… Read More

NASA's one last hope for reviving the Opportunity rover may rest with Mars itself

With NASA's Hubble and Chandra spacecraft both choosing the same week to malfunction, it's obviously been a trying time for space agency engineers who are working tirelessly to keep space hardware up and running. In fact, last week was so rough on NASA that it was easy to forget the fact that the Opportunity rover is still sitting lifeless on the Red Planet. NASA has been keeping a close eye on Opportunity - well, as close of an eye as you can when the rover refuses to actually communicate - but in a new update the space agency offers a tiny glimmer of hope. With the dust storm that doomed Opportunity now long gone, the last hope for the rover may rest in a different Mars weather...

NASA Inspector General Pans Boeing
NASA Inspector General Pans Boeing's Mars Rocket
  • Tech
  • 2018-10-14 11:16:00Z

America's biggest rocket since the Apollo-era Saturn V faces troubled times.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Latin America

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.