The world's first collection of human genomes that help scientists understand why our bodies weaken in space
Research to understand why our bodies have a natural tendency to weaken when exposed to spaceflight has been carried out at the University of Queensland.
Based on cutting-edge screening of DNA, the study has produced new data that could help to better understand why our bodies weaken during exposure to spaceflight.
The findings of the research, published in Nature Communications, were led by Associate Professor Wendy Vaughan, who said the study was the first to combine high-resolution, species-specific and virus-specific sequencing of DNA and molecularly targeted HIV RNA.
"The question this research answers is why is it that when exposed to extreme conditions such as space flight, some cells get their DNA up to 'a new level of enhancement' allowing them to better survive the radiation of the environment," Associate Professor Vaughan said.
"We have provided a quantification of this so-called 'new level of enhancement' in the immune system."
Associate Professor Vaughan said there were more than half a million viruses in the human body.
"Using these novel genome sequencing technologies, the researchers have collected many thousand more unique human genomes in a rather short period of time.
"This really opens the doors to really understanding the evolution of the human genome in an unprecedented and, we believe, unprecedented manner."
Associate Professor Vaughan said this research would be of much value to international collaboration with other institutions, including NASA, of space flight and science.
"We have found that the most important factor controlling the degree of enhancement of human DNA is protein regulation," she said.
"We have now found a mechanism controlling this but in order to increase the sensitivity of this process, we need a low-dose DNA editing strategy.
"We could go all the way to editing the genes at the level of the protein.
"We believe that our results really point to a long-term international collaboration and open-ended strategy to address this fundamental problem which affects human health in high-performance environments.
"This is the first data which identifies the pathway of factors driving the amount of enhancement of DNA and indicates the potential for aggressive DNA editing strategies and a significant discovery that opens new frontiers in the field of space research."