NASA's twin study: Spaceflight changes the human body, but only temporarily


Space changes gene expression

One of the most interesting results of a twin study came from research on how gene expression (or epigenetics) was changing during the duration of the mission. Researchers under the guidance of Chris Mason of Weill Cornell Medicine conducted sequencing of the entire genome to identify chemical changes that appeared in DNA and RNA twins. Although it was anticipated that both Kelly would have experienced epigenetic changes during the study, many transformations still surprise researchers.

"Some of the most exciting things we've seen when we look at the expression of genes in space is that we really see an explosion like fireworks that begins when the human body enters the universe," Mason said in a message for publicity. preliminary results first appeared. "With this study we have seen thousands and thousands of genes that change how they are turned on and off. This happens as soon as the astronaut comes into space and some activities are temporarily retained upon returning to Earth."

In general, when Scott entered the universe, his body was activated by many previously dormant genes. In particular, he turned to gene related to the growth of telomeres, the production of collagen, the immune system response, and the repair of DNA. And although such changes began shortly after Scott came into space, they had dramatically expanded until the half of his life.

"The expression of genes has changed dramatically," Mason said in a press release. "Over the last six months of the mission there have been six times more changes in gene expression than in the first half of the mission." But more than 90 percent of Scott's genes were again normal again within six months of returning.

Researchers warn that Earth-related Mark also experienced many epigenetic changes. "The difference we saw in Scott was within the range of fluctuations we see in Mark," said Andy Feinberg of Johns Hopkins University at a press conference on Tuesday, "that we do not see it pathologically."

"The study of twins is an important step towards understanding epigenetics and expression of genes in human flying," said J.D. Polk, chief medical and medical officer of NASA.

Chris Mason conducted a study to study how gene expression affects life in the microgravity environment. In this video of 2017, discussing their previous results.


Chromosomal shields grow longer in space

Another important aspect of the twin study focussed on how space flights changed the length of Scott's telomeres, which are protective caps at the ends of the chromosomes, which prevent the DNA from even replenishing. This study, under the guidance of Professor Susan Bailey of Colorado State, monitored the length of telomeres of each twin before, during and after Scott's stay at the space station.

Telomers "can serve as a biomarker of accelerated aging or some related health risks, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer," said Bailey at a press conference. "We imagined that we would go into the study that unique types of stress and extreme environmental exposure, such as space radiation and micro-gravitation, all these things accelerate the loss of telomeres."

Bailey and her team unexpectedly realized that the length of Scott's telomeres did not shrink when it was in space. Instead, they have increased significantly. But in just two days, when Scott returned to Earth, his telomers were shortened again.

Although Scott's telomers are now on average about the same as they were before the flight, Bailey concludes that Scott currently has very short telomers as he had at the beginning of the project, which may indicate that his time in space had a negative impact on his telomere. in the long run. In the meantime, Markov's telomers remained roughly the same in the study.

"For us, the Earth," Bailey explained in a press release, "we all care to become older and we all want to avoid cardiovascular disease and cancer. If we can figure out what's going on, what causes these changes in body length , maybe we'll be able to benefit everyone. "

To do this, Bailey is planning further research on telomeres as part of the NASA project for a one-year mission that is currently under development. In the project Bailey will examine 10 astronauts on year-round missions, 10 astronauts on half-year missions and 10 more on short missions, which will last only two to three months.

Unlike the study of twins, which enabled Mark to go into his normal life, the project of one year mission will keep control subjects isolated within the mission of each astronaut. According to Bailey, "We are trying to determine if it's really special about space flights that cause the changes we've seen."


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