Human health not greatly affected by space missions,…

Federico Mansilla
Abril 17, 2019

From 2015 to 2016, Scott Kelly became the first American astronaut to spend almost one full year in space. "This multi-system, integrated analysis over time is one thing that makes the Twins Study unique and powerful".

"We can not send humans to Mars without knowing how spaceflight affects the body, including the microbes traveling with humans to Mars", said Northwestern's Fred W. Turek, who led the microbiome study.

But in space, Scott Kelly's telomeres got longer.

NASA's "Twins Study", comparing effects on the human body after nearly a year in space by measuring the physiological and cognitive changes in the twins - one who spent 340 days in space and another who remained on earth - was published Friday in the journal Science, with promising results.

"Thanks to the twin brothers and a cadre of investigators who worked tirelessly together, the valuable data gathered from the Twins Study has helped inform the need for personalized medicine and its role in keeping astronauts healthy during deep space exploration, as NASA goes forward to the Moon and journeys onward to Mars".

Persistent changes were observed in a few other areas, including some cognitive function. Numerous findings are consistent with data collected in previous studies, and other research in progress. Scott had modified to his DNA, exhibiting longer telomeres - the caps on the finish of a DNA strand.

In contrast, his brother's telomeres remained stable throughout the entire period.

She said there was a "very rapid decrease" in telomere length upon Scott's return to Earth and he also experienced some unexplained telomere loss.

Regardless of decades of astronauts occurring space missions, this query stays responsible for answering.

Burger plate with waffle fries
Human health not greatly affected by space missions,…

A third significant finding is the variability in gene expression, which reflects how a body reacts to its environment and will help inform how gene expression is related to health risks associated with spaceflight. Although Scott's genes changed while in space, majority returned to normal in six months when he returned to Earth.

Changes to mitochondrial and immune system genes, which affect how the body produces energy and how well its protected, however, came as a surprise, although the brothers' epigenomes - chemical compounds and proteins that can attach to DNA and turn certain genes on or off - revealed a less than 5-percent difference.

Further, the results identified key genes to target for use in monitoring the health of future astronauts and potentially developing personalized countermeasures. However, the diversity of bacteria in his microbiome, however, did not change during spaceflight, which the researchers believe to be an encouraging sign. The type of information collected can be used to help with astronaut training and for putting nay additional measures in place to help protect the body and mind when a person is in space.

Research from NASA's landmark Twins Study found that extended spaceflight affects the human gut microbiome.

Part of the record-setting one-year mission, the NASA Twins Study incorporated 10 investigations to advance NASA's mission and benefit all of humanity. Scott's life on the space station saw him exposed to higher levels of radiation than he would ever experience on Earth, plus continual weightlessness.

At the same time, scientists monitored Mark - a veteran himself of four Space Shuttle missions - on Earth as what they called a "genetically matched ground control". There was a huge volume of data to sort and analyse, given the range of parameters collected.

Studying one pair of twins can't prove risks of spaceflight, researchers cautioned.

While significant, it is hard to draw conclusions for all humans or future astronauts from a single test subject in the spaceflight environment.

There were also changes in the expression of some of Scott's genes, particularly those related to the immune system.

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