NASA’s Twins Study is a research conducted by the organization’s scientists intended to find out how space factors in terms of nature versus nurture. Taking advantage of twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly, scientists collected samples from each before sending Scott to space.
Scott remained in the International Space Station for an entire year. On the other hand, Mark remained on Earth as the control subject. Through the Twin’s Study, scientists were able to learn many things about how space changes the body.
Scientists were able to learn many things that about the body preflight, in-flight, and post-flight. Some of the things they learned include significant changes in the body of those living in space for extended time.
Lengthened Telomere, Unaffected Flu Vaccine and Increased Inflammation
For instance, a yearlong time in space lengthens telomeres, which protects DNA strands. Additionally, living in space also results in decreased body mass, increase folate, and being more mentally fit. However, these changes can be expected because of a new environment as well as the change in diet imposed to astronauts.
One conclusive result of a study involving these twin astronauts is that being in space does not influence the effect of a flu vaccine. It means that flu vaccine still stimulates the immune system even when you are in space. In a study about the effects of space on inflammation, there was multiple evidence that living in space lives the body more prone to infection.
Microbiomes and Gene Mutations
The microbiome is a community of microorganisms living inside the guts. It plays an important role in the overall health. In another study on the effect of space on the human body, it was found that a microgravity environment has an effect on it.
On the study between the astronaut twins, it shows them having drastically different microbiomes throughout the project. However, this effect was expected since microbiome has been known for being extremely sensitive to changes in the environment.
One of the most notable effects of entering and living in space is gene mutation. The gene mutations were actually expected. But that hundreds of them occurred is a surprising result. Some of these gene changes were also found cell-free RNA and DNA. The scientists believe that the changes were due to the stress of space travel.
There were many gene changes found on the twin that resided in space for a year. Out of those changes, the most relevant include the telomere lengthening, decreased production of collagen, production of bones, and clotting of blood, as well as hyperactive activity of immune system.