Twin astronauts, Scott and Mark Kelly are tested by NASA to see if staying in space has any effect on age in human body. Scott was aboard the International Space Station for nearly year while Mark, his twin brother and fellow astronaut was back on Earth. Scott had experienced many genetic and physical changes but almost all changes gradually returned to normal once he was back on earth.
Some negative impacts are still lingering on Scott which is creating a challenge for scientists who are worried about longer space travels, such as Earth to Mars.
“If you look at the changes we’re seeing in Scott, the vast majority of them came back to baseline in a relatively short period of time when he came back to Earth,” said Steven Platts, Deputy Chief Scientist at NASA’s Human Research Program.
Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. These get shorter with aging. NASA noticed that Scott’s telomeres got longer in space but they became even shorter than before when he came back to earth. This is also being studied by scientists as a procedure to reverse aging and beat cancer.
There were some mental changes too where Scott was seen to become more farsighted. His carotid artery and retina thickened. Some DNA damage and T-cell activation was seen.
“The Twins Study demonstrated on the molecular level the resilience and robustness of how one human body adapted to the spaceflight environment,” mentioned Jenn Fogarty, chief scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program.