The final results of NASA study focused on two twin astronauts, Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly, have been published in the Science Journal. Fifty-year Scott Kelly spent a year aboard ISS in 2015 while the identical twin, Mark Kelly, stayed on Earth. Both twins were monitored throughout the year during and after their year of separation for ascertaining the effects of space on the human body.
The initial results of the study were released earlier in 2017 and 2018 as well. However, those results caused confusion that has been cleared thanks to the publishing of final findings. NASA and other space agencies are now able to state with certainty about the effects of being in space for prolonged time on the human body.
This research will enable astronauts and space explorers to execute future space missions safely. In a nutshell, the study has confirmed that Scott Kelly was much happier and healthy as compared to his twin brother who was on Earth. The findings further state that any changes that were spotted in Scott came back to normal within six months of coming back home. Michael Snyder, one of the lead investigators of the study, said, ‘I think it’s reassuring to know that when you come back things will largely be back to the same.’
Last year when early results were published, many news outlets reported that 7 % of Scott Kelly’s DNA had changed. The reporting was false, of course. Because if that was true, the astronaut would have transformed into a completely different species. What really happened was that 7% of Scott Kelly’s DNA had changed expression during the time that he spent in space. The genes that are responsible for carrying out instructions in a cell’s genome had changed slightly. These changes were observable even six months after he had returned to Earth.
What is important is the fact that Mark Kelly’s DNA also went through the same expression changes. Our environment has the capability of shaping our gene expression. Most of these changes are minute and have no reported effect on the overall health of the twins. However, they are important for scientists to understand better what the human body goes through when in space.
The study will be providing tons of data to NASA for making sure that the astronauts are provided with the best possible care during the future long-term missions. It will also help NASA to come up with ways that humans can improve their health while staying on Earth.