What can a year in space do to your genes?

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“I was a dorky kid,” Christopher Mason admits. “I went to Space Camp. I’d always been thinking about maybe being an astronaut.”

But not long after Space Camp, Mason discovered something even more seductive: DNA. He decided he wanted to be a geneticist instead.

Today, Mason is an associate professor at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. Yet that dorky kid at Space Camp still lurks within.


When Mason found out that NASA was planning a mission to study the DNA of astronauts, he leapt at the opportunity. Now he’s part of a team of scientists who are examining blood and other samples from astronaut Scott Kelly, who recently spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station. They’re looking at how life in space alters astronauts at a molecular level. They hope their discoveries can help protect astronauts on long-distance trips, such as the proposed mission to Mars.

What makes Scott’s year in space particularly exciting for genetics research is his identical twin brother, fellow astronaut Mark Kelly, who spent the year on Earth. NASA’s goal is to compare changes documented in Scott’s DNA and epigenome to Kelly’s in order to find out what space can do to astronauts’ genes.

Read full, original post: What happened to astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA during his year in space

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