Metagenomic Sequencing of the Bacteriome in GI Tract of Twin Astronauts (Twins Study - Turek) - 09.27.17

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 for one year while his twin remains on Earth. Metagenomic Sequencing of the Bacteriome in GI Tract of Twin Astronauts (Twins Study – Turek) examines how an astronaut’s microbiome changes during spaceflight and after return to Earth, whether these changes are different from those in his twin brother who remains Earth-bound, and how these changes relate to the various changes noted by other Twins Study investigators.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Fred Turek, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Fred Turek, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, United States

Martha Vitaterna, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, United States

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, Scientific Discovery, Earth Benefits

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2015 - September 2015

Expeditions Assigned

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 Metagenomic Sequencing of the Bacteriome in GI Tract of Twin Astronauts (Twins Study – Turek) study examines which changes that occur in bacterial populations over a year in space are different from those that occur over the same time on Earth.
  • This investigation also studies whether particular types of bacteria are susceptible to the space environment.


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Space Applications
A vast community of bacteria live in the gastrointestinal tract, where they play a major role in human health. Data obtained in this study is expected to illuminate how this microbial community changes during extended space missions, and how these changes relate to metabolism, the immune system and genetics. Understanding how the bacteriome changes during a long-duration spaceflight can improve efforts to safeguard crew members’ health, such as by making adjustments to their diets that help beneficial bacteria thrive.

Earth Applications
Environmental stress, radiation and diet can cause changes to gut flora which can, in turn, affect cognitive function, metabolism, the immune system, etc. This investigation is expected to provide new insight into how the bacteriome responds to the physically challenging environment of space, and how this affects the human host’s health. This information may prove useful in the development of new treatments and preventive measures for related health issues on Earth.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Animal and Human Biology AH16
Behavioral and Mental Health B3

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
Main Twins Study

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