Though the project is still underway, NASA researchers recently detailed some preliminary findings, revealing that space does indeed leave a mark on human health. The HRP is dedicated to discovering the best methods and technologies to support safe, productive human space travel, as well as educating the public about the challenges of human space travel. The study involves determining the genetic changes experienced by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent time in space, by comparing his health data with that of his identical twin brother Mark who remained on Earth.
Scott Kelly (on the left), and Mikhail Korniyenko (on the right), were selected for the one-year mission in 2012. As part of NASA's goal to send astronauts on long-duration space flights to Mars and beyond, this record-setting stay in space was created to test the limit of human endurance in a microgravity environment.
The project group studied the brothers' levels of physical and mental stress before, during and after Scott's journey, charting the slightest changes.
Also known as the Twin Study, this experiment consisted of Kelly spending almost a year in space while his identical twin (Mark Kelly) remained on Earth.More news: Oklahoma Says It Will Use Nitrogen Gas in Executions
Scott Kelly spent a full year on the International Space Station, returning about two years ago. They took these measurements before, during, and after the mission, and their results so far show that the stresses of spaceflight can fundamentally affect gene expression.
According to the study, scientists measured the Kelly brothers' metabolites, which are necessary for maintaining life, cytokines that are normally secreted by cells in the immune system, and proteins - the powerhouses within each cell. After Scott returned to Earth from his year-long mission, it took his body time to re-adapt to Earth's gravity.
Scott had grown two inches taller, lost body mass and he moved with slower speed and accuracy, according to findings published by NASA. At least this was the result of NASA analyzes, after which the scientists announced that their DNA had been changed by 7%.
Of particular interest were the changes to Scott's DNA.
Scott's telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that shorten as you age, became significantly longer in space, but the majority of them shortened within two days of his return to Earth. This unexplained anomaly was verified with multiple assays and genomics testing.