Time in Space Transforms Gene Expression, NASA Says

17 Marcha, 2018, 06:12 | Author: Kelly Blake
  • Mark and Scott Kelly. 

A trip to Mars, for example, could mean astronauts spending at least 3 to 4 years in space.

NASA's preliminary results expose that astronaut Scott Kelly's genetic expression did not return to baseline after his arrival to Earth.

Scott Kelly spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station between 2015 and 2016.

According to NASA, Johns Hopkins researcher Andy Feinberg, one of 10 investigators on the Twins Study, observed variability in patterns of methylation - the process by which genes are chemically turned on and off. Chris Mason of Weill Cornell Medicine reported epigenetic changes in five biological pathways, including those related to oxygen deprivation, DNA fix and bone formation.

Still twins? Astronauts Mark, left, and Scott Kelly.

"We do not yet clearly understand how the space environment fully affects the human body", Pitt said on CBSN, "and of those changes, how do we mitigate them and can we see a correction if we come back to a normal Earth environment?"

Some of the most exciting things that we've seen from looking at gene expression in space is that we really see an explosion, like fireworks taking off, as soon as the human body gets into space. "This likely is within the range for humans under stress, such as mountain climbing or scuba diving". Reports included data on what happened to Scott Kelly, physiologically and psychologically, while he was in space, and compared the data to Mark Kelly, as a control subject on Earth.

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What changed in Scott was the way his DNA was transcribed and translated into functional products; the study of such shifts is called epigenetics.

"The two are still very much identical twins", Holm said.

The media told a different story this week, however, as various news sources proclaimed that a fourteenth of Kelly's genetic code had mutated during his time off-planet.

MCCAMMON: That's Christopher Mason from Weill Cornell Medicine. Kelly's transformation suggests longer-term alterations related to at least five biological pathways and functions. "NASA and the other researchers collaborating on these studies expect to announce more comprehensive results on the twins studies this summer". Seven percent of Kelly's gene expression experienced change that did not return to preflight expression after six months back on Earth, based on results published January 31.

MASON: We saw some genes that were activated while he was in space. However, a more pronounced decrease in speed and accuracy was reported postflight, possibly due to re-exposure and adjustment to Earth's gravity, and the busy schedule that enveloped Scott after his mission.

Some outlets, including Ars Technica, The Verge and National Geographic, spotted and combated the misinformation that had been spreading. His twin brother, a retired astronaut, Mark Kelly back on earth.

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