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Space & Astronomy

Mars astronauts could have their DNA altered

By T.K. Randall
October 9, 2017 · Comment icon 15 comments

Is epigenetic modification the key to protecting against radiation ? Image Credit: NASA/Pat Rawlings
NASA has been exploring ways to protect astronauts from deadly radiation during future missions to Mars.
Of all the challenges that will need to be overcome before humans can journey to Mars, finding a way to protect astronauts from the deadly radiation that they will be inevitably exposed to during the trip has long proven difficult, especially given that the spacecraft will need to be as light as possible and lining it with thick layers of lead wouldn't exactly be practical or advisable.

Despite this however, NASA appears to be hard at work coming up with a solution, as evidenced by recent comments made by Douglas Terrier, the space agency's acting chief technologist.

"We're looking at a range of things, from drug therapies, and those seem to be quite promising, to more extreme things like epigenetic modification," he told the Times.
"I think those have a lot of ethical consequences so they're still in the experimental thought stages."

What this means is that NASA is actually looking in to the possibility of altering the way genes are read by the body to make them more resilient against cancer and other radiation-related ailments.

If that all sounds very science-fiction then that's because, for the moment at least, it is, however by the time a mission to Mars is likely to happen, techniques like these might actually be commonplace.

Whether this will be the best option for protecting future Mars astronauts however remains to be seen.

Source: Russia Today | Comments (15)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by EBE Hybrid 7 years ago
So the, astronauts and colonists of Mars may have their genes altered, making them not quite the same as homosapien, (maybe homo-martian?) so as soon as a martian colony becomes self-sufficient they'll be saying "Mars for Martians, Earthers go home" ha
Comment icon #7 Posted by EBE Hybrid 7 years ago
However, that's probably a long time off, they'll have to be in a position to grow hops and brew decent beer before they can cut ties with Earth
Comment icon #8 Posted by qxcontinuum 7 years ago
how about a good suns cream?
Comment icon #9 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
I just want to know why the radiation wasn't an issue on Moon missions.  I know the time in space is less, but radiation is radiation.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
  ^^ This.   ^^This is not correct. Radiation can either kill you as a result of a single massive dose or as a result of a longer exposure to a smaller dose. Think of alcohol. Someone that drinks a pint of beer every day is likely to have no long serious health issues. Someone that drinks 30 pints in one go may very well die of alcohol poisoning. The person that drinks 6 pints a day probably won't die immediately of alcohol poisoning, but may very well suffer serious or fatal health issues in the long term. It's the same with radiation. Apollo could easily have lost astronauts as the result ... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
But what happens when the astronauts get angry?  Will they turn green? Look what happened to the hulk when his DNA changed.  I hope they take some calm-me-down pills and a spare set of cut off denims for emergencies. 
Comment icon #12 Posted by taniwha 7 years ago
They should at least try it on monkeys first.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Dark_Grey 7 years ago
So how can we commercialize this treatment and make effectively a cancer vaccine? If we are able to strengthen our natural DNA repair mechanism, why shouldn't we use it regardless? 
Comment icon #14 Posted by toast 7 years ago
Its my opinion that especially the spaceflight related research on cancer will deliver major steps for the development for much better cancer treatments in future. Just look at the ISS1, a lot of research experiments performed there are releated to cancer and results of these experiment are still part of cancer research here on Earth, so the results are subject to commercialization already. And not to forget to mention that the experiment designs are mostly designed by the global top scientists/universities in this field of research and these top heads/universities, and their projects, are mos... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by Parsec 7 years ago
  This.  At least theoretically, the guy in the article was quite vague.    If we talk about epigenetic changes, a consensus definition of an epigenetic trait says "stably heritable phenotype resulting from changes in a chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence" (  So basically changes to the body that don't imply DNA modifications.   

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