NASA has found amazing findings to its "twin study,” where identical twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly spent a year apart to study the impact of low gravity on people.
- 'Twin study' reveals gene expression can change in space
- 7 percent of Scott Kelly's genes changed when returning to Earth
- NASA researching health, safety of astronauts in space exploration
One incredible result — they aren't exactly the same anymore.
Florida Tech Biomedical Engineering Professor Dr. Kunal Mitra is all about biomedical engineering. His work takes research down to the cellular level.
He's fascinated by this latest NASA study involving two twins, one that headed to space for a year, while the other stayed put here on Earth.
"If you stay there for more than a year, your body is going to say the cells need to grow in this way," Mitra said. “Our bodies are always looking for equilibrium."
Case in point, the findings from the Kelly brothers, identical twin astronauts.
Scott called the ISS home for a year in 2015, while Mark stayed home living a normal gravity-bound existence.
Recently released numbers from NASA showcase what some call the “space gene.”
Ninety-three percent of Scott's genes returned to normal shortly after landing. But the other 7 percent was different, making researchers curious about gene changes like his immune system, DNA repair and bone makeup.
"There's something in the micro-gravity environment that gives you different than what you get on Earth, that changes cells and they behave differently," Dr. Mitra told Spectrum News 13.
While NASA officials say Scott's DNA did not fundamentally change, what they did observe was changes in gene expression, which is how your body reacts to environment.
"The change related to only 7 percent of the gene expression that changed during spaceflight that had not returned to preflight after six months on Earth," said NASA Public Affairs Officer Stephanie L. Schierholz in a statement. "This change of gene expression is very minimal. We are at the beginning of our understanding of how space flight affects the molecular level of the human body."
Mutations that researchers believe could be due to the long term effects of space travel are still not fully known as we embark on exploring the solar system.
Schierholz added that NASA and researchers are collaborating on the studies, and expect to "announce more comprehensive results on the twins studies this summer."
NASA says the aim of the research is the health and safety of astronauts who will soon head out on missions to Mars and beyond.