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Medicine Matters Home Article of the Week The NASA Twins Study: A multidimensional analysis of a year-long human spaceflight

The NASA Twins Study: A multidimensional analysis of a year-long human spaceflight

ARTICLE: The NASA Twins Study: A multidimensional analysis of a year-long human spaceflight

AUTHORS: Francine E. Garrett-Bakelman, Manjula Darshi, Stefan J. Green, Ruben C. Gur, Ling Lin, Brandon R. Macias, Miles J. McKenna, Cem Meydan, Tejaswini Mishra, Jad Nasrini, Brian D. Piening, Lindsay F. Rizzardi, Kumar Sharma, Jamila H. Siamwala, Lynn Taylor, Martha Hotz Vitaterna, Maryam Afkarian, Ebrahim Afshinnekoo, Sara Ahadi, Aditya Ambati, Maneesh Arya, Daniela Bezdan, Colin M. Callahan, Songjie Chen, Augustine M. K. Choi, George E. Chlipala, Kévin Contrepois, Marisa Covington, Brian E. Crucian, Immaculata De Vivo, David F. Dinges, Douglas J. Ebert, Jason I. Feinberg, Jorge A. Gandara, Kerry A. George, John Goutsias, George S. Grills, Alan R. Hargens, Martina Heer, Ryan P. Hillary, Andrew N. Hoofnagle, Vivian Y. H. Hook, Garrett Jenkinson, Peng Jiang, Ali Keshavarzian, Steven S. Laurie, Brittany Lee-McMullen, Sarah B. Lumpkins, Matthew MacKay, Mark G. Maienschein-Cline, Ari M. Melnick, Tyler M. Moore, Kiichi Nakahira, Hemal H. Patel, Robert Pietrzyk, Varsha Rao, Rintaro Saito, Denis N. Salins, Jan M. Schilling, Dorothy D. Sears, Caroline K. Sheridan , Michael B. Stenger, Rakel Tryggvadottir, Alexander E. Urban, Tomas Vaisar, Benjamin Van Espen, Jing Zhang, Michael G. Ziegler, Sara R. Zwart, John B. Charles, Craig E. Kundrot, Graham B. I. Scott, Susan M. Bailey, Mathias Basner, Andrew P. Feinberg, Stuart M. C. Lee, Christopher E. Mason, Emmanuel Mignot, Brinda K. Rana, Scott M. Smith, Michael P. Snyder, Fred W. Turek

JOURNAL: Science. 2019 Apr 12;364(6436). pii: eaau8650. doi: 10.1126/science.aau8650.


To understand the health impact of long-duration spaceflight, one identical twin astronaut was monitored before, during, and after a 1-year mission onboard the International Space Station; his twin served as a genetically matched ground control. Longitudinal assessments identified spaceflight-specific changes, including decreased body mass, telomere elongation, genome instability, carotid artery distension and increased intima-media thickness, altered ocular structure, transcriptional and metabolic changes, DNA methylation changes in immune and oxidative stress-related pathways, gastrointestinal microbiota alterations, and some cognitive decline postflight. Although average telomere length, global gene expression, and microbiome changes returned to near preflight levels within 6 months after return to Earth, increased numbers of short telomeres were observed and expression of some genes was still disrupted. These multiomic, molecular, physiological, and behavioral datasets provide a valuable roadmap of the putative health risks for future human spaceflight.

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Kelsey Bennett