Who is Scott Kelly? NASA astronaut's DNA partially changed in space

NASA Twin Study Shocker Space Travel Altered Astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA

Scientists have been trying for years to understand the effects of space on the human body, and they were presented with a great opportunity thanks to the fact that NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has a twin brother, Mark. Seven percent of his genes did not return to normal after he landed, researchers found.

According to the researchers, almost seven percent of Scott Kelly's gene did not return to normal as it shows long-lasting changes compared to his identical twin brother Mark Kelly, who also had the same DNA.

NASA - as well as Elon Musk's SpaceX mission - are looking at the possibility of astronauts travelling to Mars. Scott spent total 520 days in space while Peggy Whitson spent 665 days in total, who is also the current record holder.

From 2015 to 2016, Scott Kelly spent 340 consecutive days at the International Space Station in low-orbit Earth. A mission to Mars, however, could take three years. So they made a decision to run some tests and compare Scott's DNA to his brother's after spending some time in space, and they were pretty surprised by the results.

This was an intriguing find at the time; telomeres affect the aging process-over time, telomeres begin to shrink when new DNA is formed, which is a large part of why our bodies get lethargic, wrinkly, and sick as we get older. While this finding was presented in 2017, the team verified this unexpected change with multiple assays and genomics testing.

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The initial findings also stated the following: Scott's folate went up during inflight, likely due to better food choices from the space food system; the flu vaccines given in space and on Earth yield the similar immune responses, and his cognition was not affected during the 12-month mission but he registered decrease in speed and accuracy after the mission.

There will no doubt be plenty more studies over the next few years which will look into Scott's ongoing health as he ages, especially when compared to his brother, and we could well learn of the full ramifications of the changes that have occurred within Scott's DNA. The recent 2018 IWS saw these findings confirmed. Researchers also presented what happened to Scott after he returned to Earth, again while making comparisons to Mark.

Scott Kelly returned to Earth in March 2016 after spending almost one year in International Space Station. According to new research, the majority of Scott's telomeres actually shrank back to match his brother's DNA, and they did so within just two days of Scott returning to Earth. This summary is set to be released later this year.

The Twins Study has benefited NASA by providing the first application of genomics to evaluate potential risks to the human body in space. There's further research to be done, but while Scott was previously identical to Mark, now the pairs' genes display a 7 percent difference. The altered 7 percent, however, could indicate long-term changes in genes connected to the immune system, DNA fix, bone formation networks, oxygen deprivation and elevated carbon dioxide levels.

The individual studies on the twins will be combined into a summary paper, as detailed in the graphic above.

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