I thought this would be a great opportunity to make us appreciate what exactly our DNA can do. In the news today I spotted the Twins Study — comparing data from before, during and after astronaut Scott Kelly’s mission in space with those of his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark, back on Earth.
On a genetic level, they are trying to determine whether a so-called “space gene” activated while Scott was in space. Through genome sequencing of DNA and RNA from the twins’ white blood cells, the researchers found that Scott and Mark have hundreds of mutations unique to each man, with more than 200,000 RNA molecules that presented differently.
Chemical modifications to Scott’s DNA increased while he was in space, but they returned to normal once he was back on Earth. Mark’s also shifted around the midpoint of the study but were normal at the end. The researchers believe that this shows how sensitive genes are to changing environments, in space or on Earth. O.K. that deserves some extra thought. Our genes are sensitive they say. Of course they are, they have to adapt to our lives and how we live them. So get that notion of fate out of your head. It’s my genes, therefore my father died young and so will I, and all that kind of stuff, because we can change our DNA.
A lot of the study focused on telomeres, the repetitive sequences at the end of a chromosome to protect it from deteriorating or fusing with other chromosomes, in the twins’ white blood cells revealed a surprise: Typically, telomeres decrease in length as someone gets older. Picture a Telomere like those white things at the end of your shoes laces. They keep your DNA together and when we get old they start to break apart, just like the ones on our shoes.
Scott’s telomeres increased while he was in space. When he returned to Earth, they shortened again. Again, proof of just how adaptable we can be. For now, the researchers believe the change could be linked to an increase in exercise and decrease in calorie intake while on the station. Did someone ask for red wine? Maybe you should, because the resveratrol in the red wine activates our genes to behave like we have been eating less.
But on a mechanical neurological level, we have gravity receptors in our muscles and joints. They are what power up our brains. Also our back muscles and without exercise we see astronauts back muscles deteriorate because they are not receiving the activation signals due to a lack of gravity to their DNA to RNA to make muscle. So while you might one day by a ticket to the moon, while you are here on earth, you might want to strategize a little about how to maximize these concepts. Said another way, Chiropractors work with these magnificent systems that provide so many health benefits to us and for this article, one of them is longevity.