Identical no longer after a year in space

Mark (left) and Scott (right) Kelly. NASA

Though Scott Kelly's genetic expression changed, he and Mark are still identical.

Identical twins Scott and Mark - who is also an astronaut - were subjects of a study aiming to determine what space travel does to the human body.

One finding - that his gene expression levels changed by 7percent - triggered a media sensation, with headlines about him "losing" part of his DNA. According to NASA's research - which is still preliminary, with the agency expecting to publish a more complete study this year - it's not Kelly's genes that changed but how they were expressed. All in all, NASA said, the gene expression change was minimal.

MASON: If 7 percent of your DNA change, you would potentially even be a different species. This information was originally discovered past year; however, NASA confirmed the findings just a few weeks ago after noticing that Scott's telomeres shortened after he landed.

The newest preliminary results from this unique study of Kelly, now retired from NASA, were released at the 2018 Investigator's Workshop for NASA's Human Research Program in January.

The much-touted series of experiments were created to help NASA learn more about how long-duration spaceflight can change the human body as the space agency prepares to send people to the moon and Mars in the coming decades.

The transformation of 7% of Scott's DNA suggests longer-term changes in genes related to at least five biological pathways and functions.

For Scott, most of the changes experienced returned to their former state as his body readjusted to Earth's gravity once again. Some of these alterations, found only after spaceflight, are thought to be caused by the stresses of space travel. For almost a year, commander Scott Kelly living onboard the global space station. "Researchers now know that 93% of Scott's genes returned to normal after landing", NASA reported. "I used to have an identical twin brother". Cells read the DNA and build proteins based on the sequence that can be used internally or secreted into the body.

- Scott's telomeres on the ends of his chromosomes in his white blood cells lengthened while in space.

"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?"

Nasa said in a statement: 'Nasa has a grasp on what happens to the body after the standard-duration six-month missions aboard the International Space Station, but Scott Kelly's one-year mission is a stepping stone to a three-year mission to Mars.

Researchers are now evaluating what impact the findings might have upon space travel beyond Earth's orbit.

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