Astronaut Scott Kelly spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station, beginning in March 2015, while his identical twin remained on Earth. That dynamic helped elucidate some of the molecular and physiological effects of significant stretches of time beyond the planet’s boundaries and helps illustrate the scientific value of state twin registries.
Kelly is the featured speaker at this year’s Washington State University-sponsored TwinFest, which is set for July 22 in Everett. It’s the first TwinFest gathering in the Evergreen State since the Washington State Twin Registry moved from University of Washington to WSU in 2015.
After collecting troves of samples and data on Kelly during his year in space and comparing them to his then-Earth-bound twin brother, Mark, who is also an astronaut and now a U.S. senator, dozens of researchers from prominent institutions nationwide published a landmark study in the journal Science in 2019.
Their findings related to how long stretches in space affect aging, cognition, and immunology, among numerous other aspects of the human body.
In a recent twin study co-authored by WSU biologist Michael Skinner, the researchers found that consistent exercise has the potential to change molecules within the human body that influence gene behaviors. Twin studies have also examined how environmental exposures such as pollution and area deprivation affect and shape the health of individuals.