In 2015, NASA was presented with a unique opportunity to study the effects of spaceflight on the human body when astronaut Scott Kelly participated in a one-year mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and his identical twin brother Mark volunteered to serve as his ground control while remaining on Earth. Scott launched with crewmate Mikhail Kornienko on March 27, 2015 on a Russian Soyuz rocket, and together they spent 340 days on the ISS.
NASA astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly volunteered to participate in the Twins Study. Scott participated in data collection in space during 340 days on the International Space Station while his identical twin brohter Mark participate in data collection sessions on the ground.
To undertake the project, named the Twins Study, NASA solicited proposals and funded ten individual researchers from across the country to take part, including KBRwyle's Dr. Stuart Lee who was selected as the Principal Investigator for his study titled "Metabolomic and Genomic Markers of Atherosclerosis as Related to Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Vascular Function in Twin Astronauts."
The Twins Study represents many research disciplines and multiple research institutions and KBRwyle was honored to provide important programmatic support for the study. KBRwyle team members supporting NASA's Cardiovascular and Vision Laboratory (CVL), Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory (NBL), Clinical Laboratory, Core Laboratory, and the ISS Medical Projects team served as key contributors to 4 of the 10 investigator teams on the project.
KBRwyle’s David Martin and Steven Laurie practice vascular ultrasound procedures that are central to the Cardio Ox study
Lee's study, a collaboration between the CVL and the NBL, was designed to investigate whether spaceflight contributes to an accelerated progression of atherosclerosis, or the hardening of arteries. CVL sonographers used ultrasound imaging to assess arterial structure and function, both on the ground and at the ISS by guiding astronauts through the testing procedures with real-time communication. Since Scott's return to Earth, KBRwyle team members have begun analyzing bio samples collected on the ground and in space to measure biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress.
To prepare for this mission, KBRwyle team members overcame multiple program and logistical hurdles. NASA had not previously explored genetic analyses in astronauts, so KBRwyle team members in ISS Medical Projects supported development of NASA's policy on the collection and distribution of genetic data and samples as well as the formulation of the unique astronaut genetic consent for participation in these studies. Further, to support the ISS in-flight research, the team certified unique blood collection tubes and the flu vaccination hardware with a much shorter lead time than normally allotted. KBRwyle team members prepared the Twins Study data and necessary documents, defined research and sharing requirements, and provided organizational support for multiple scientific workshops leading to an integrated research plan that ensured the research objectives were accomplished.
KBRwyle sonographer, David Martin, practices ocular ultrasound procedures with KBRwyle's Steven Laurie, wearing the Russian Chibis, a lower body negative pressure garment.
NASA has declared the implementation of the one-year mission and the Twins Study to be a resounding success. KBRwyle is proud to have played an integral role on such an important project that will help NASA fulfill its mission to reduce the health impacts of human space flight, ensuring that the men and women who venture into space remain healthy and safe.
Additional information describing the NASA Twins Study can be found at: