Genetic Modification to Help Humans Survive Deep Space Missions

Gene editing could make humans more capable of traveling farther into space and even to planets such as Mars. Radiation is one of the significant concerns with space travel. Scientists are yet to discover a way to overcome the hurdle of radiation

Fremont, CA: Long spaceflight journeys tend to leave an aftereffect on astronauts. Chris Mason, geneticist and associate professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell University in New York, recently investigated the genetic effects of spaceflight and how humans might overcome these challenges to expand our species farther into the solar system. According to his findings, one of the ways to protect future astronauts on missions to places like Mars may involve the DNA of tardigrades, tiny micro-animals that can survive the most extreme conditions, even the vacuum of space.

In 2015, Mason led one of the ten teams of researchers chosen by NASA to study twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly. Scott Kelly spent nearly a year on the International Space Station, while Mark stayed back on Earth. Scientists aimed to learn more about how long-duration missions affect the human body by studying how the two astronauts biologically reacted to their vastly different environments during the same period. Mason and his team of researchers uncovered a wealth of data that has so far revealed many new findings about how space affects the human body.

The research, which involved studying how specific genes are expressed during the different stages of spaceflight, could provide useful insights for future efforts to mitigate the dangers of spaceflight. However, the findings from the research are not conclusive enough as it involved just two people and inadequate data. Scientists rely on data that can be justified, both qualitative and quantitative, to draw conclusions and suggest suitable methods to answer the research question. Mason believes that some of these changes are part of how the body needs to respond to space travel.

According to Mason, medicines can be prescribed to the future astronauts to mitigate the effects they have discovered through the study. However, new studies have suggested that gene editing could make humans more capable of traveling farther into space and even to planets such as Mars. Radiation is one of the significant concerns with space travel. Scientists are yet to discover a way to overcome the hurdle of radiation. If found, astronauts could remain healthier for longer durations in space, and also help to combat the efforts of radiation on healthy cells during cancer treatments on Earth.

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