Catalyst: Does life in space change our genes?

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Former astronaut Mark Kelly will soon be Arizona’s next new senator.

It’s said that politics changes people. But so too does spending time in space. From our Catalyst team, a story about Kelly that’s all about space and nothing about politics.

In March of 2015, Mark Kelly’s brother, Scott Kelly, began a 340 day mission with the International Space Station.

Mark and Scott are identical twins. This gave researchers the ability to observe the impact long duration space days have on human health.

Michael Goryll, an ASU Engineering Professor, sat down with Mark Kelly to find out about this research and what it may mean for future trips to Mars.

The current differences between Mark and Scott have to do with their epigenetics.

“Epigenetics is information in addition to your DNA sequence that tells genes, not what they are, which is what the DNA sequence does, but what they should do,” said Andrew Feinberg with John Hopkins University.

When doing a blood test for both brothers, researchers found that Mark had more variability in his epigenetics.

Scott’s epigenetics remained fairly consistent, potentially due to his constant environment and consistent food. When he arrived home from his year journey, Scott was two inches taller for a short period of time and he lost some of his bone and muscle mass.

Mark Kelly said, “It takes some time for you to recover, from what we’ve seen, is that the recovery time from spaceflight is about the time you were in space. My brother’s one year spaceflight, that took him about a year to where he started to feel normal again.”

Kelly hopes that engineers will create a vehicle to stay on Mars for a long period of time and one that will be able to bring back a happy and healthy crew.

Vanessa Ruiz, Host, Catalyst

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