Seems like living amongst the stars really brings about a change in you, as NASA reported that one of its astronauts, Scott Kelly, had a 7% change in his gene expression after spending a year in the International Space Station.
Gene expression is the term used to describe how our genes function within cells, and it is the body’s natural response to changes in its environment.
NASA’s study looks into the changes in Scott’s body before, during, and after his stay in space, comparing it to that of his identical twin brother Mark, who stayed on Earth.
While there was a change in Scott’s gene expression, he and Mark are still twins.
The changes in Scott are thought to be triggered caused by the stresses of space travel, but NASA added that so far, they deem it ‘very minimal.’
Scott has since retired from his awesome job as an astronaut, but studies on his experience continue.
An important discovery in the change in his gene expression was hypoxia, or a noticeable deficiency in the amount of tissue oxygenation, and the study theorized it was probably due to a lack of oxygen and high levels of carbon dioxide.
There is also possible damage to Scott’s mitochondria, the “power plants of cells,” as indicated by mitochondrial stress and increased levels of mitochondria in the blood.
According to a CNN report, the findings on Scott were released at the 2018 Investigator’s Workshop for NASA’s Human Research Program at the start of the year, but preliminary results were published last year at the Investigator’s Workshop. CNN said NASA found that overall, the 2018 findings agreed with those from 2017, with some additions.
The Kelly Twins Study helps NASA gain valuable insight into what happens to the human body in space beyond the usual six-month International Space Station missions previously studied in other astronauts.
NASA stated that Kelly’s one-year mission is a ‘scientific stepping stone’ to a planned three-year mission to Mars.
It is ambitious project for sure, so scientists need all the information they can to determine the risks involved as the human body tries to adjust to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight.
The targeted Mars space travel will be triple the time humans have spent in space so far.