Astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA permanently changed in space

Astronaut Scott Kelly's DNA permanently changed in space

NASA has learned astronaut Scott Kelly and his identical twin- astronaut Mark Kelly- are no longer genetically the same.

"We really see an explosion, like fireworks taking off, as soon as the human body gets into space", said Dr Chris Mason, Twins Study investigator, of Weill Cornell Medicine.

Although 93% of Kelly's genetic expression returned to normal once he returned to Earth, a subset of several hundred "space genes" remained disrupted.

The Kelly brothers have almost identical genomes, allowing for an unprecedented look at the physical effects of long-term spaceflight.

The agency emphasized the change in Scott Kelly, was "very minimal".

'I did read in the newspaper the other day ... that seven per cent of my DNA had changed permanently, ' he said.

NASA found spaceflight affects gene expression through oxygen deprivation stress, increase inflammation and changes in nutrients. "What researchers did observe are changes in gene expression, which is how your body reacts to your environment".

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In particular, Chris Mason of Weill Cornell Medicine reported on the activation of Kelly's "space genes" while confirming the results of his separate NASA study, published past year.

Scientists compared the effects of space travel to Scott's twin, Mark, who remained on Earth and was treated as the control subject in the study.

Yet as genes turn on and off, change in the function of cells may occur.

While 93% of Kelly's genes went back to normal after a few days back on Earth, the remaining 7% could spell longer term changes to his immune system, DNA fix, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia.

Other than his DNA, the study found most of the biological changes Scott Kelly experienced in space returned to normal after just hours or days on Earth, although some took months.

Telomeres are involved in the fix of damaged DNA and key to preventing ageing, and the find may help us better understand how and why we age. Scientists discovered Scott's telomeres - the endcaps of chromosomes that shorten as you age - actually grew longer during his one year in space. Last March, Scott was two inches taller when he returned from his mission than he had been when he left.

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