NASA's Kelly Twins Study
Characterizing the Effects of Space Flight from “Omics” to Cognition
The full array of 21st century “omics"-based research methods should be intelligently employed to reduce the health and performance risks that astronauts will be exposed to during exploration missions beyond Low Earth Orbit.
In March of 2015, US Astronaut Scott Kelly launched to the International Space Station for a one year mission while his twin brother, Mark Kelly, a retired US Astronaut, remained on the ground. This situation presented an extremely rare flight opportunity to perform an integrated omics-based demonstration pilot study involving identical twin astronauts. A group of 10 principal investigators was competitively selected, funded, and teamed together to form the Twins Study. A very broad range of biological functions are being examined at the same time in both twins, including the genome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome, metabolome, gut microbiome, immunological response to vaccinations, indicators of atherosclerosis, physiological fluid shifts, and cognition.
The design of the Twins Study and an overview of initial results will be presented in this lecture, and the technological and ethical issues raised by for such spaceflight studies will be discussed. An anticipated outcome of the Twins Study is that it will place NASA on a trajectory of using omics-based information to develop precision countermeasures for individual astronauts to address adverse effects of spaceflight and maintain astronaut health on long duration exploration missions.
About the Speaker
Craig Kundrot is the Life Sciences Lead in the Office of the Chief Scientist at NASA where he coordinates life science research in astrobiology, human research, planetary protection and space biology within NASA and with other organizations.
Before joining NASA Craig was an x-crystallographer and worked on protein and RNA structure-function relationships at Yale, the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, and the University of Colorado. He continued this work at NASA before assuming science management positions for biotechnology and materials science. He then served as the Deputy Chief Scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) and as the first Mission Scientist for the HRP’s Twins Study. He also served as Chair of the Institutional Review Board at NASA Johnson Space Center helping formulate NASA’s genetic research policy for astronauts.
During his NASA Career Craig has been awarded three Center Director commendations and six Special Service Awards.
He earned a BA in Integrated Science with a minor in Biochemistry at Northwestern University a MPhil and PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale.