Geneticist proposed to cross DNA of future colonists of Mars with Tardigrades

The team of the American scientist Chris Mason intends to help future colonists survive on Mars.

Geneticist proposed to cross DNA of future colonists of Mars and tardigrades
Geneticist proposed to cross DNA of future colonists of Mars and tardigrades

Geneticists see potential in the combination of human genes with other species, and to protect the health of astronauts from the consequences of a long stay in outer space.

Chris Mason, a geneticist and professor of physiology and biophysics at Cornell University, investigated the effects of spaceflight on the DNA of astronauts and the potential to eliminate the negative effects of prolonged exposure in space. 

And found a non-standard solution in the genome of slow pace, tiny microorganisms that can survive even in a vacuum.

Mason led one of NASA's ten research teams that studied the twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly. One of them, Scott, spent almost a year on board the ISS, while Mark stayed on Earth the whole time. 

Scientists collected a lot of data during this experiment, the analysis of which continues to this day. Some of the results were discussed by Mason with colleagues at a conference on human genetics in late October.   

While future astronauts may be prescribed medications to deal with the negative effects of a long stay in space, there is another way - gene editing - that can make them immune to radiation and help them stay healthy. 

I don't have any plans to create genetically edited astronauts in the next ten to twenty years," Mason explained. - After 20 years of pure research, mapping, and functional validation of our knowledge, I hope we might be able to say that we can make a person who is better able to survive on Mars.

But hypothetically, this could be achieved either through epigenetic editing, i.e. switching on and off the expression of certain genes, or through a combination of human DNA with genetic material of other species. 

Human cells could more successfully resist the effects of space, in particular, radiation.

This idea has already been outlined by Mason in his 2016 article, and now together with his team he intends to continue research. Human genetic editing is quite ethical if it makes people more adaptable to life on Mars and does not prevent them from living on Earth, says the scientist. For him it is only a matter of time. 

Tardigrades, Water Bears.
Tardigrades, Water Bears.

Among the abilities of tardigrades is the ability to fall into suspended animation under adverse conditions, and then quickly come to life. 

This makes them almost indestructible. The same property allows us to consider them the first colonists of the Moon - among the cargo of the Israeli probe "Bereshit", which crashed onto the surface of the satellite, there was a container with a thousand of these invertebrates.