Spending an extended period of time in outer space takes a toll on the human body. And while NASA was aware of some physical changes that astronauts needed to be prepared for upon coming back to Earth, they were curious to learn further about how extended space time would affect a human body on a molecular level. After one astronaut spent a year in space, NASA was able to determine that the prolonged spaceflight actually altered his DNA.
Astronaut Scott Kelly and his twin brother Mark Kelly took part in NASA’s twin study, a means to compare the human body on Earth to its counterpart following a year in space. While Scott spent a year in space, Mark stayed behind, and upon Scott’s return, NASA was able to track and monitor the ways that spaceflight had altered Scott’s body.
As Newsweek reports, Scott’s body experienced things like oxygen deprivation stress, increased inflammation, and nutrient shifts when he returned to Earth. After six months, however, these changes reversed and Scott reverted back to his pre-spaceflight state. Overall, at least 93% of his genes returned to normal.
But 7% of Scott’s genes—specifically the ones related to immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia—never reverted back to their pre-flight conditions. While it makes sense that spending a year in space would have a significant impact on a person, it’s crazy to think that it would actually alter a person’s DNA.
In a prolonged effort to keep astronauts safe, NASA will continue to study how spaceflight impacts humans and will release the full results from the Kelly twins’ study later this year. We can’t wait for NASA to release their complete study to show how space impacts the human body to get a complete picture of the way spaceflight alters a human—especially since we TOTALLY want to jump on a SpaceX rocket to Mars once Elon Musk gets that up and running for the general public. Our own ulterior motives aside, we’re glad that NASA is taking the health of their astronauts seriously, and we’re glad they are committed to exploring life outside of Earth while also keeping flight crews safe.
Are you surprised to hear that spaceflight can alter your DNA? Would you ever want to go into space knowing that is can affect your DNA? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Image: Warner Bros
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