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What Did NASA's Twin Study Find?
"His hard. But I was so afraid I could lose everything loves wonderful and confusing, and magical and infuriated everything about life that we had thought and planned and hoped for was just in that moment gone. I was so so so lucky have that join the millions of listeners who've made committed possible and promise you it's cheaper than therapy. Listen to committed on apple podcasts the iheartradio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome to brainstorm, a production of Harvey. Hey, brain stuff, Lauren Vogel bomb here. Have you ever wondered exactly what happens to the human body when it's suspended in space for extended period of time based on Hollywood, productions alone men and women who navigate the galaxy always seemed to be just fine when they land back on earth. But our astronauts so lucky in reality NASA has made it its mission to find out in a landmark DNA study published an April twenty nineteen issue of the journal science researchers from John Hopkins Stanford and other institutions revealed after a year in space astronaut, Scott Kelly, experienced, no, major long-term differences to his EPA genome compared with that of his twin brother current, Arizona. Senate candidate Mark Kelly hoop stayed firmly planted here on earth, your EPA genome is all of the chemical compounds that attached to your DNA and changed the way it functions. So no major differences, hypothetically, a good thing. Here's the deal with putting your body in space. It exposes you to harmful ultraviolet rays radiation, limited food and exercise lower gravity disrupted, sleep cycles, and an unknown number of other potential hazards. And while scientists have spent decades studying the effects of space travel on astronauts, most of these men and women have travelled on missions that max out at six months in order to travel somewhere like say Mars missions needs to be much longer. And scientists say it's critical to understand the effects that these super extended missions could have on the human body. Let's talk more about how your EPA genome works. Your DNA is your genome. It's the genetic code tells every cell in your body how to build different proteins which determines how those cells function your EPA genome is any chemical modifications to your DNA these modifications don't change your actual DNA sequence. But they can change how your cells us the instructions that your DNA gives them. So these tiny chemical alterations can have a major impact on a person's health by influencing the way their genes are expressed they can switch jeans from onto off and vice versa. A major advantage of this new research is the fact that it studies identical twins who naturally have identical genetic material. But while the study subjects offer a rare and unique glimpse into the potential for long term genetic changes in space. The researchers are quick to admit that they're tiny sample size means more testing is essential with only to study subjects. They can't be sure that any changes are due to space travel more research with other astronauts needs to be. Done. The methodology for the study involved collecting blood samples physiological data in cognitive measurements. From each Kelly twin at various points over twenty seven month period before during and after Scott's one year space mission if you're wondering how in the world or universe? Scott samples reached scientists from space they were transported via rockets. In the future. Scientists hope to process and store samples on board the international space station itself. But for the purposes of this study samples were rocketed back to earth and processed within forty eight hours. Then the research team examined to the brothers genomes looking for genetic changes, specifically focusing on two types of white blood cells and examining process called methylated, which occurs when chemical compounds called methyl groups are added onto DNA generally speaking, there were just about as many EPA genetic changes in Scott as there were in his twin. The biggest difference was observed nine months into Scott space mission. When just seventy nine percent of his DNA was methylated compared to eighty three percent of Mark's DNA the locations methylation were different in both men. Scott's Beth leash appeared near genes involved with a municipal response, which the researchers believe correlates with additional data that found that Scott had increased markers associated with inflammation, which is a potential red flag. But again bears further study to determine whether this difference was really caused by Scots location in space. Oh, though, one other weird thing that definitely did happen to Scott in space the shape of one of his eyeballs changed by the time. He got back to earth his retinal nerve and the foles in the layer that surrounds, the I thicker, researchers think this could have to do with prolonged exposure to low gravity another thing to watch out for in the future for sure. This episode was written by Michelle constant enough. Ski and produced by Tyler clang brain stuff is a production of I heart radio. How stuff works for more on this and lots of other stories that involve not entirely unexpected rockets. Visit our home planet has stuff works dot com. For more podcasts, heart radio, I heart radio app. Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. 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