Only one set of twins has ever been into space, and now those twins are providing an unprecedented opportunity for scientists to understand better the effects of microgravity on the human body.
NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) will fund 10 short-term, first-of-its-kind investigations into the molecular, physiological and psychological effects of spaceflight in a continuous effort to reduce the health impacts of human space exploration. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute is partnering with HRP to provide genetic counseling and assisting in the management of the research.
This unique opportunity is made possible by NASA's decision to fly veteran astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station for one year, beginning March 2015, while his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, remains on Earth.
This study will focus in part on the comparison of blood samples collected from Scott and Mark at regular intervals before, during and after the one-year mission. Physiological and psychological testing also will be conducted on the brothers before, during and after the mission.
Scientific and technical experts from academia and government reviewed 40 proposals submitted in response to the research announcement "Human Exploration Research Opportunities - Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors." The following 10 selected proposals, which are from 10 institutions in seven states, will receive a combined $1.5 million during a three-year period:
- Emmanuel Mignot, Stanford University School of Medicine, HERO Twin Astronaut Study Consortium (TASC): Immunome Changes in Space
- Michael Snyder, Stanford University, HERO Twin Astronaut Study Consortium (TASC) Project: Longitudinal integrated multi-omics analysis of the biomolecular effects of space travel
- Brinda Rana, University of California, Proteomic Assessment of Fluid Shifts and Association with Visual Impairment and Intracranial Pressure in Twin Astronauts
- Susan Bailey, Colorado State University, Differential effects on telomeres and telomerase in twin astronauts associated with spaceflight
- Fred Turek, Northwestern University, HERO Twin Astronaut Study Consortium (TASC) Project: Metagenomic Sequencing of the Bacteriome in GI Tract of Twin Astronauts
- Andrew Feinberg, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Comprehensive whole genome analysis of differential epigenetic effects of space travel on monozygotic twins
- Christopher Mason, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, The Landscape of DNA and RNA Methylation Before, During, and After Human Space Travel
- Mathias Basner, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, HERO Twin Astronaut Study Consortium (TASC) Project: Cognition on Monozygotic Twin on Earth
- Stuart Lee, Wyle Laboratories, Metabolomic And Genomic Markers Of Atherosclerosis As Related To Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, And Vascular Function In Twin Astronauts
- Scott Smith, NASA Johnson Space Center, Biochemical Profile: Homozygous Twin control for a 12 month Space Flight Exposure
HRP regularly assesses crew health and performance during spaceflight to evaluate associated risks. From these assessments, HRP develops strategies to monitor and mitigate these risks. These studies often have the considerable added benefit of advancing health care for people on Earth.