Spending a year in space not only changes your outlook, it transforms your genes.
The study looks at what happened to Kelly before, during and after he spent one year aboard the International Space Station through an extensive comparison with his identical twin, Mark, who remained on Earth.
NASA has learned that the formerly identical twins are no longer genetically the same.
The transformation of 7% of Scott’s DNA suggests longer-term changes in genes related to at least five biological pathways and functions.
The newest preliminary results from this unique study of Scott, now retired from NASA, were released at the 2018 Investigator’s Workshop for NASA’s Human Research Program in January. Last year, NASA published its first round of preliminary results at the 2017 Investigator’s Workshop. Overall, the 2018 findings corroborated those from 2017, with some additions.
To track physical changes caused by time in space, scientists measured Scott’s metabolites (necessary for maintaining life), cytokines (secreted by immune system cells) and proteins (workhorses within each cell) before, during and after his mission. The researchers learned that spaceflight is associated with oxygen-deprivation stress, increased inflammation and dramatic nutrient shifts that affect gene expression.