Spaceflight changes gene expression
One of the most intriguing results from the Twins Study of how gene expression (or epigenetics) has been changed over the duration of the mission. Led by Chris Mason of Weill Cornell Medicine, researchers conducted the whole genome sequencing to identify chemical events that occurred in the DNA and RNA. Kellys are expected to experience the evolution of the study, the sheer number of transformations still took by surprise.
"Some of the most exciting things we have seen in the world of space explosion, like fireworks taking off," the preliminary results first came out. "With this study, we are seeing how they are turned on and turned off."
Overall, when Scott's fractured to space. Primarily, it is related to telomere growth, collagen production, immune system response, and DNA repair. And though such changes started soon after Scott got into space, they dramatically ramped up about halfway through his stay.
"Gene expression changed dramatically," Mason said in a press release. "In the last six months of the mission, there were six times in the first half of the mission." However, more than 90 percent of Scott's genes were again expressing themselves within six months of his return.
The researchers point out that Earth-bound Mark also experienced a significant number of epigenetic changes. "The amount of difference that we saw in the world of fluctuation that we see in Mark," said Andy Feinberg of Johns Hopkins University in a press conference Tuesday, "so we do not see that as pathological."
"The Twins Study has been an important step towards understanding epigenetics and gene expression in human spaceflight," said J.D. Polk, NASA's Chief Medical and Medical Officer, in a statement.
Chris Mason is a researcher working in a microgravity environment. In this video from 2017, he discusses their preliminary results.
Chromosome Shields grow longer in space
Another important aspect of the Twins study focused on how spaceflight altered the length of Scott's telomeres, which are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that prevent DNA strands from degrading as we age. Led by Professor Susan Bailey of Colorado State University, this study is monitored by both telometers before, during, and after Scott's stay aboard the space station.
Telomeres "can serve as a biomarker of accelerated aging or some of the associated cardiovascular disease or cancer," Bailey said during the press conference. "We believe that the only types of stresses and extreme environmental exposures such as radiation and microgravity, all of these things would act to accelerate telomere loss."
Unexpectedly, Bailey and his team found the length of Scott's telomeres did not shrink while he was in space. Instead, they clearly increased in length. However, within just two days of Scott's return to Earth, his telomeres drastically shortened again.
Though Scott's telomeres are now, on average, about the same length as they were preflight, Bailey notes that Scott currently has more telometers than he did at the start of the project, which could point to his time in space. the long-term. Meanwhile, Mark's telomeres have remained about the same throughout the study.
"For us Earthlings," Bailey Explained, "We're all about getting older, and everyone wants to avoid cardiovascular disease and cancer. Could it be something that would be a benefit to everybody. "
To do this, NASA's One-Year Mission Project, which is currently under development. In the project, Bailey will study 10 astronauts on full-year missions, 10 astronauts on half-year missions, and 10 more on short missions to only two to three months.
Unlike the Twins Study, which is one of the most important aspects of astronaut's mission. According to Bailey, "We're trying to determine if it's actually something we're seeing."