Twins, Separated at Orbit

Being a twin has its benefits from birth. When both grow up to be astronauts, NASA wins, too.

Scott Kelly gathered data on himself for almost a year aboard the International Space Station while his twin brother Mark did the same back on Planet Earth, the New York Times reports.

Scott returned to Earth 3 years ago; yesterday, Science ran the landmark NASA Twins Study—the first study to track behavioral and physiological impacts of long journeys through space, Scientific American reports.

How did Scott change? “DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria,” reports Carl Zimmer. Some changes self-corrected upon return to Earth, but others—like declines in cognitive test scores—didn’t.

The twin factor gives scientists more confidence to assume causality in their findings—but beware the tiny sample size, they caution.

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