A study regarding the relation between spending time in outer space and the change in cells recently surfaced. On January 30, NASA revealed a twin study done on the Kelly twins, one of which is a current astronaut, as the test subjects.
First, ten researchers took samples from each of the twins before Scott Kelly embarked into space. These samples helped the researchers identify the visible changes in cells and others by comparing the before and after.
Scott was sent to live on the International Space Station for a whole year, returning March of 2016.
The Integrated Omics investigator Mike Snyder reported changes of possible inflammation in Scott’s lipid panel, a blood test to measure certain fats used to be converted to energy, compared to his twin, Mark, who found an increase in 3-indolepropionic acid (IPA), which is being considered for therapeutic use towards Alzheimer’s Disease.
Further changes reported on Scott included an increase in telomeres, the ends of a chromosome that impact the aging of the human’s cells. These are necessary towards a cell’s functions. Otherwise, harm can occur to DNA strands, preventing the cell’s purpose. The telomeres returned to its normal pace after arrival back to Earth.
Another change taken from Scott’s white blood cells involved decrease (while inflight) and increase (in the middle of study) in DNA methylation, finally returning to normal in the end. Methylation works as an epigenetic mechanism that usually influences the tasks of genes. Reportedly, both twins found changes in their methylation patterns, which show the possibility of sensibility in genes that depend on the environmental changes.
Changes in microbial organisms and decrease in bone formation were also observed.
The twin study connects the effects that space has to the human body using comparisons between the twins who have the same genetics. The data that was collected will help to advance further studies.
The studies are not complete; it is expected NASA will provide more updates.