02 April 2018
Space travel can change your DNA, a new study has revealed. The long-term NASA study was conducted on astronauts Scott Kelly and his twin brother Mark, who showed that space travel, can affect a person’s DNA.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly has spent over 500 days in space till date, out of which the biggest stretch was for 342 days at the International Space Station. His identical twin brother Mark, who is a retired astronaut, has the same DNA, which provided NASA with a never before possible opportunity to study how long-term space travel can affect the human body. After Scott returned to earth, a study was conducted which revealed that his DNA had altered and was no longer the same as his twin brother.
Most of Scott’s genes returned to normal after a brief time back here on Earth; however, researchers found that around 7% of Scott Kelly’s genes showed a long-lasting impact and did not turn back to normal. Scott has been back on earth for two years now, and his DNA remains altered.
“Scott’s telomeres (endcaps of chromosomes that shorten as one ages) actually became significantly longer in space,” NASA explains. “While this finding was presented in 2017, the team verified this unexpected change with multiple assays and genomics testing. Additionally, a new finding is that the majority of those telomeres shortened within two days of Scott’s return to Earth.”
“I did read in the newspaper the other day that 7 percent of my DNA had changed permanently,” Kelly said in a recent interview. “And I’m reading that I’m like, ‘Huh, well that’s weird.’”
The “Twins Study” was conducted as a preliminary step to for the manned mission to Mars which is expected to last almost 3 years. It could be the longest stretch of time that any human has been away from Earth. It would be interesting to know what such a long time away could do to a human body. The Mars Mission is expected to happen in the 2030s.