A study by NASA twins shows how the body is changing in space – Quartz



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Scientists have sent hundreds of people (and more animals) to space. Most of these missions were relatively short – the longest space flight, which was about 15 months old, was carried out by Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov two decades ago. Because of this, scientists do not have much information about the physiological changes that occur in the body at long intervals in space.

On April 11, a group of scientists (paywall) reported some of the most comprehensive data on physical changes that occur when the body stays about one year in space. The work concluded that human physiology actually adapts to the new environment and, to a great extent, resonates with life on Earth when it returns.

The room is stiff. On Earth, we are accustomed to a tight force and radiation protection from the atmosphere. Without gravity, we weaken our bones and muscles that no longer need the support of the body. Even eyes change shape (although it is not clear why), and the combination of radiation and emotional stress of space travel even influences what parts of our genome are open to our cells.

In this document, a group of dozens of researchers from NASA and several US institutions used physiological data from American astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days at the international space station from 2015 to 2016, and his brother, Martha, who stayed. on earth. Scott and Mark are identical twins, which means they have essentially the same genetic material, making Mark an excellent control for the experiment.

Each brother collected samples of blood, urine and mud, while taking tests to assess things, such as their cognitive abilities and eye shape. For the next three years, researchers spent on analyzing possible differences. Certainly Scott's body has undergone many changes in space. Some were expected, as if his eyes were changing shape. Scientists also noticed that his immune system worked even harder, worked better on cognitive tests, and the composition of the intestinal microbiome had shifted, and some of its cells showed signs of return aging in space. The telomeres, part of our DNA, which is shortened with time, have actually increased in space. (Scientists suspect that this could have been the results of its cells that worked overtime to protect themselves from additional radiation damage.)

"When we go into space and experience microgravity and travel at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour, our bodies are adapting and continuing to work and, to a large extent, they work very well," said Steven Platts, deputy chief scientist for the NASA program for human research. CNN.

Upon returning to Earth, Scott's body mostly returned back, as it was before, similar to Mark's; his telomers began to crumble within 48 hours of landing. The adjustment was difficult – the body was again hurt under the gravity of gravity.

However, some of the changes remained unchanged six months later: parts of Scott still read part of Scott's genes, and his cognitive abilities were worse (although this may be due to re-adapting to a busy schedule).

As a sample of two, Scott and Mark Kelly can not give final answers. Each astronaut is unique as its genome and will therefore have its own response to living in space. But the behavior that changes takes place provides the basis for future research on what would happen to the body on longer missions, such as trips to Mars.

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