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Genetic Linkage

NASA twins study highlights key risks for long-term space travel: Cosmic rays and microgravity

When NASA reported preliminary observations about the famous "twin astronaut" study a year ago, the media rushed in, reporting the effort with mind-boggling inaccuracy. The agency was quick to correct the confusion of gene mutations with changes in gene expression, promising a full paper once the findings were more fully scrutinized. Long-awaited, "The NASA Twins Study: A multidimensional analysis of a year-long human spaceflight," appears in the April 11 issue of Science.

 

To recap, Scott Kelly (Space Twin) spent a year aboard the International Space Station (ISS) while his identical twin Mark (Earth Twin) stayed in Arizona. Both men are 50 years old. Mark, also an astronaut, is married to Gabrielle Giffords and is running for the Senate in 2020.

 

A data deluge

 

With last year's overreaction, it's understandable that announcement of the full paper to reporters ahead of publication set the stage for a news blitz. The four press releases, images and videos, a list of quotes from NASA scientists, phone news conferences from Science and NASA, a summary, web materials, and a short feature article in Science sent my hype-o-meter into overdrive.

 

Much of the news isn't news – Genetic Literacy Project covered it a year ago. Plus, many of the monitored biological functions didn't change much in space or did so only transiently.

 

To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

 

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