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DNA and RNA of living cells are affected by microgravity in outer space

Author: Danut Dragoi, PhD

Introduction

Scott Kelly just returned from International Space Station with very interesting biological measurement during of 340 days flight in space.

One important device that I assume Scott used is the JPL’s palm size DNA sequencer, see link in here  and its picture below.

Palm DNA Sequencer

Image SOURCE: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/biomolecule_sequencer

The device was developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, see link in her. It helps scientists to sequence DNA in space. NASA’s Biomolecule Sequencer investigation is a technology demonstration of the device called the MinION™.

Watch video

https://vimeo.com/127689053

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly that returned to Earth, spent 340-day-long stay aboard the International Space Station. It’s the longest amount of time an American astronaut has lived in space, says NASA. The extended stay is part of the space agency’s One-Year Mission, an experiment to see how long-term spaceflight changes the human body,  see link in here.

Living for months in microgravity can alter many of the body systems

Living for months in microgravity can alter many of the body’s systems, since humans evolved on Earth. Astronauts who have stayed in space for long periods have problems with their circulation and eyesight. That’s in addition to losses in bone and muscle tissue. Kelly has collected fluid samples and undergone rigorous medical testing to document these changes over the course of his trip. “When you put a person’s cells in a different environment, the cells in the body are going to get a bit of a shock, and there are going to be some changes,” said Graham Scott, the vice president of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, which has been working with NASA on the One-Year Mission, see link in here.

Kelly’s various samples will help NASA better understand the health effects of space. That’s crucial for preparing crewed trips to deep space.NASA is eager to send astronauts to Mars someday, and a round-trip mission to the Red Planet is going to be at least two to three years, according to the space agency. Astronauts on these deep-space voyages need to know what kinds of health changes they can expect along the way, as well as how to determine whether — for instance — dizziness is being caused by poor circulation or a disturbed sense of balance. Correct diagnosis is key for managing the effects of space, see link in here.

Genetic changes

Scott Kelly’s twin, Mark, is a retired astronaut, so scientists will compare the brothers to see how Scott’s DNA, proteins, gut microbes, immune system, and cognitive performance changed relative to Mark’s. Kelly has been a virtual pincushion during his flight, with blood draws (and urine and saliva samples) that will be analyzed for clues to his levels of stress hormones, his immune system function, even the length of his telomeres (sections of chromosomes that have something to do with aging). Many of those measurements, which will continue for years in some cases, will be compared to Mark’s so scientists can subtract out normal aging changes from what 340 days in space does to a body.

‘It feels like it’s burning whenever I sit or walk’: Scott Kelly reveals the aches and pains of coming back to Earth after a year in space, see link in here 

  • 52-year-old touched down in Kazakhstan at around 11:45pm EST on Tuesday, March 1st, after almost a year in space
  • The astronaut was taller than his twin brother because of the impact lack of gravity in space elongated his spine. However, this is not permanent, his height come back to normal in a few days.
  • He is now very slightly younger than his twin brother due to an effect caused by Einstein’s theory of relatively
  • Says his muscles and joints are far more painful that they were following previous flight, which lasted 159 days

From a preliminary account of what Kelly said, we can conclude that microgravity can have an impact on the contents of living cells, especially DNA and RNA. What is not taken into account yet is the level of cosmic radiation (rapid electrons and beta, gamma and x-rays, elementary particles that comes mainly from Sun. It seems that astronauts with a weakened immune system can get cancer after flights.

Source

https://nanoporetech.com/applications/dna-nanopore-sequencing

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/nation-now/2016/03/03/after-year-space-scott-kelly-returned-2-inches-taller/81262998/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3476992/Scott-Kelly-shrunk-normal-height-gaining-nearly-two-inches-space-twin-brother-reveals.html#ixzz41z8n4arg

http://www.theverge.com/2016/3/1/11138102/scott-kelly-year-in-space-health-effects-return-to-earth

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3476992/Scott-Kelly-shrunk-normal-height-gaining-nearly-two-inches-space-twin-brother-reveals.html#ixzz420LQrRlx

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