Astronauts Mark Kelly, left, and Scott Kelly attend the Breitling Global Roadshow event at The Duggal Greenhouse on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in NY. But his genetic code had dramatically changed. The January finding was included in a NASA announcement corroborating a number of 2017 preliminary findings on the effects of space travel on the human body. Some of the findings were expected.
Researchers learned that spaceflight is associated with oxygen deprivation stress, increased inflammation, and dramatic nutrient shifts that affect gene expression.
After the return of Scott to the Ground only 93% of his DNA returned to normal.
"We studied pre-flight and post-flight data from 15 astronauts who had spent time aboard the space station and detected changes in morphology of the eyes", said Nimesh Patel, assistant professor. Other changes will remain.
Researchers took biological samples from Scott before, during and after his mission and then compared them to Mark's samples.
But the other 7% remained changed, even after Kelly returned to earth, signaling space travel can have long-term changes on a person's body.
Astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly took part in a year-long study to investigate how space affects the body
About 7 percent of Scott's genes may have longer-term changes in expression after spaceflight, in areas such as DNA fix, the immune system, how bones are formed, hypoxia (an oxygen deficiency in the tissues), and hypercapnia (excessive carbon dioxide in the bloodstream). Problems like hypoxia - a condition in which the cells in his tissue lack the proper amount of oxygen - and mitochondrial damage were also investigated, along with changes to his collagen, blood clotting ability, and bone formation.
Reacting to the news of the study results this week, Kelly expressed amazement at his body's changes ― and also used the opportunity to poke fun at his brother.
But some of the biological changes may be simply due to differences in diet, environment, and individual immunity - factors not related to the gravity-less stretch beyond Earth's atmosphere, NASA added in its reporting of the latest results. "These responses are important for future missions".
The "space genes" changes were significant for five pathways.
Researchers are analysing what happened to Mr Kelly before, during, and after his year-long stint aboard the International Space Station using his brother, Mark, as a benchmark.
Chris Mason of Weill Cornell Medicine reported on the activation of Scott's "space genes" confirming the results of his separate Nasa study, published previous year.
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