Space Twins & Epigenetics
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The ever-wonderful Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah sent this helpful email update to counter misconceptions around the Kelly Twins’ “Genetic Differences” as a result of Scott’s year on the International Space Station.
You may have seen the headlines about identical twin astronauts, Mark and Scott Kelly, now being “genetically different” after Scott spent a year in space while Mark remained on Earth. Yet much of the popular press has failed to explain that these differences are mostly epigenetic modifications leading to changes in gene expression. Or that several of the analyses were limited to circulating white blood cells and are thus mostly relevant to the immune system.
Here are some great resources they shared:
The Epigenetics module on Learn.Genetics and Teach.Genetics explores how signals from the environment regulate gene expression, including an explanation of how differences in identical twins might arise
- Scott Kelley’s telomeres were elongated in space and shortened on Earth. Learn all about telomeres from this primer.
- The study also compared the microbiomes of the Kelly twins—which, it turns out, were quite different even before Scott Kelley traveled to space. Explore the Human Microbiome module on Learn.Genetics and Teach.Genetics.
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They have great resources for students at the Genetic Science Learning Center, and for educators at their new Teach.Genetics site. You can also follow them for Twitter updates here. Sign up for the Teach.Genetics mailing list from GSLC here.