While researchers work on engines, extraterrestrial housing options and ways to get water and energy in space, other scientists are trying to understand how space affects the human body. A good deal of what they now know was put together in a collection of 29 articles, the result of work known as The Twins Study, or Study of the Twins, which accompanied two astronauts.
Between March 2015 and March 2016, NASA scientists studied the metabolism of retired astronauts (and identical twins) Scott Kelly, living on board the International Space Station (ISS) and Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth.
The study immediately confirmed that the bones lose density at a rate of 1.5% per month, and the muscles atrophy up to 25%, especially those in the back and legs. The body fluids accumulate in the upper part of the body, and the amount of circulating blood decreases, leading to decreased oxygenation of the brain.
The collected data generated ten investigations conducted by 84 researchers from 12 universities, led by NASA’s Human Research Program. From the Gemini Study, another 56 astronauts started to be accompanied so that it was possible to document the effects felt by them.
“Omas” in action
The external factors that affect humans in space have been studied using an approach called multiomic, a biological analysis in which the data set is obtained from multiple “omas”, such as genome, proteome, transcriptome, epigenome, metabolome and microbiome, determining how they interact and influence each other.
As environmental scientist Susan Bailey, the lead investigator for the Twin Study and senior researcher for many of the articles now published, told Space.com, “We are building a solid foundation of knowledge that covers how long-term space flights affect the human body. ”.