Astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA got altered after spending a year in space

Astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA got altered after spending a year in space

NASA revealed preliminary findings that confirm recent stories that Scott Kelly's genes have changed after being in space for a year. But he literally no longer has the same DNA as his identical twin, and that to me is incredibly wild. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration used this knowledge to conduct an experiment, hoping to learn if space travel effected human DNA on a fundamental level. He also set the record for the longest consecutive time in space by an American astronaut, spending a total of 520 days in space with his longest run being a 340-day mission.

Kelly spent one year aboard the International Space Station, and returned to Earth two years ago. Since then the agency has extensively tested the effects on his body, and compared him to his (formerly) identical twin to assess the changes.

The only identical twin astronauts in history, the Kellys provided a ideal opportunity for a nature-versus-nurture study.

According to these findings, Scott Kelly showed indications of inflammation, changes in his telomeres and telomerase (parts of the chromosonal system related to aging), a decrease in bone density and gastrointestinal changes - all of which were expected.

So the Kelly brothers might not have been genetically identical to start with, but after Scott's time in space they are even less like each other.

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"Another interesting find concerned what some call the 'space gene, '" the Administration said. The other 93 percent of his genes quickly returned to normal. However, the remaining 7 percent point to possible longer-term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA fix, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia.

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, left, and his twin Mark get together before a news conference Friday, March 4, 2016, in Houston.

Scott Kelly recently took to Twitter to marvel at the report himself. Once again using mice, the study found that stress did indeed contribute to shortening telomeres and that this happening is perhaps a metabolic reaction to stress.

NASA's Human Research Program office at Johnson Space Center did not reply to a request for comment on space genes. However, none of these changes were big enough to generate major changes in body function; Scott himself said that he was surprised to hear that his DNA had been changed in an interview with MarketWatch.

The researchers began combining the data and reviewing the enormous amount of information looking for correlations, especially to gain insight into the changes space travel has or can have on the human body.

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