Research

Scott Kelly's DNA Didn't 'Change in Space' Despite Clickbait News Reports

Scott Kelly's DNA Didn't 'Change in Space' Despite Clickbait News Reports

Using Scott Kelley's identical twin brother Mark Kelley as a control subject on Earth, NASA researchers discovered that most of the biological changes Scott experienced quickly returned to his preflight status. His brother Mark Kelly is himself a former NASA astronaut of some repute, but he retired in 2011.

The NASA doctors examined Scott after he returned to Earth in 2016 from a year-long mission aboard the International Space Station.

Citing preliminary results from NASA's twins study, CNN notes that there is now a 7% change between the brothers. We also saw changes with DNA fix, so his body actually dealing with some of the impacts of radiation.

"Another interesting finding concerned what some call the 'space gene, ' which was alluded to in 2017", NASA's statement read.

"Scott's DNA did not fundamentally change". What changed was the transcription and translation of some of S. Kelly's genes.

Bailey said her research, and nine other studies, aren't finalized yet and should be released from NASA later this year.

NASA stressed in its correction that it's still at the beginning of its twin study and won't share full results until this summer. NASA called the amount of change "very minimal", but said it could point to possible longer-term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA fix, bone formation networks, hypoxia (oxygen deficiency), and hypercapnia (excessive carbon dioxide in the bloodstream).

After returning to Earth, Scott started the process of readapting to Earth's gravity.

That divergence in chimp versus human DNA comes from roughly 40 million mutations in the base-pairs, or letters, that make up the genetic code, Live Science previously reported. Not only did his time in space give astronauts a new record, but it gave NASA a ideal opportunity to understand how the human body reacts to almost a year in space.

The changes occurred in Kelly's telomere - a cap of genetic material at the end of each chromosome.

It's believed the disrupted genes were caused by the stresses of space travel, such as oxygen deprivation. Kelly's one-year on the ISS is a good precursor for a three-year mission NASA hopes to soon launch to Mars. Scott was two inches taller when he landed.

"We do not yet clearly understand how the space environment fully affects the human body", Pitt said on CBSN, "and of those changes, how do we mitigate them and can we see a correction if we come back to a normal Earth environment?" All of these findings are being integrated and summarized by the research teams; researchers are also evaluating the possible impact that these findings will have on future space travel beyond low Earth orbit.


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