The Landscape of DNA and RNA Methylation Before, During, and After Human Space Travel (Twins Study - Mason) - 05.17.17

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Although identical twins are genetically almost the same, differences in environment, diet and other outside factors can affect their health in different ways. The Twins Study is an integrated compilation of ten studies at multiple research centers that examines the effects of space travel on twin astronauts, one of whom stays on the International Space Station (ISS) for one year while his twin remains on Earth. The Landscape of DNA and RNA Methylation Before, During, and After Human Space Travel (Twins Study – Mason) studies how microgravity and other spaceflight-related environmental factors influence chemical changes in RNA and DNA, and how they relate to the various changes noted by other Twins Study investigators.
Science Results for Everyone
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The following content was provided by Christopher Mason, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom:

Principal Investigator(s)
Christopher Mason, Ph.D., Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Ari Melnick, M.D., Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY, United States
George S. Grills, Ph.D., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States
Francine E. Garrett-Bakelman, M.D., Ph.D., Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, United States

Developer(s)
NASA Johnson Space Center, Human Research Program, Houston, TX, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

Research Benefits
Space Exploration, Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2015 - September 2015

Expeditions Assigned
43/44

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The Twins Study provides the extraordinary opportunity to control variables of individual genetic differences, susceptibilities and lifestyle factors, making differential effects observed between the twins spaceflight-specific.
  • The Landscape of DNA and RNA Methylation Before, During, and After Human Space Travel (Twins Study – Mason) investigation examines genome-wide epigenetic profiles of DNA methylation changes in an astronaut and his ground-based twin control.
  • The study also establishes a comprehensive catalog of coding and noncoding, small and large RNA, and maps RNA methylation sites in an astronaut and his ground-based twin control.

Description

NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute have instituted a program to compare the effects of spaceflight accumulated over one year and observe changes in the genetic makeup between twin brothers. This project initiates a pilot demonstration focusing on the use of integrated human analyses to better understand the biomolecular responses to the physical, physiological, and environmental stressors associated with spaceflight. The project emphasis is on the collection of biological specimens and psychological testing from one twin in orbit on the ISS and the collection of corresponding samples and data from his twin on the ground. Sample collection and data analysis occurs before, during and after the one-year mission.
 
The Landscape of DNA and RNA Methylation Before, During, and After Human Space Travel (Twins Study – Mason) portion of the overall Twins Study investigation focuses on changes in DNA and RNA methylation associated with the upcoming year-long ISS mission in the space- and earth-bound twin astronauts. This investigation examines genome-wide epigenetic profiles of DNA methylation changes, establishes a comprehensive catalog of coding and noncoding, small and large RNA, and maps RNA methylation sites in an astronaut and his ground-based twin control.

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Applications

Space Applications
Spaceflight causes chemical changes to DNA and RNA, which can change the function of genes involved in biological processes including, but not limited to, metabolism, immune function and gastrointestinal flora. This investigation studies changes in DNA and RNA methylation that take place in one astronaut during a one-year space mission compared to his twin brother on Earth. Results are expected to establish the patterns of gene expression for astronauts, their altered regulation in space, and other genetic changes that are activated by space travel, providing an unprecedented window into how space affects human biology at the molecular level. Understanding how environmental stressors influence RNA and DNA methylation may help to enable long-term space travel for future missions.

Earth Applications
Chemical changes in RNA and DNA are involved in cancer, aging, changes in circadian rhythms, and many other functions. Understanding how environmental stressors influence RNA and DNA methylation may prove useful in the development of new treatments and preventive measures for related health issues on Earth.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols


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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
Mason Lab - Integrative Functional Genomics

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Imagery

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Integration of all data types

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