Two mountaineers are trying to recreate NASAs twin study—on Mount Everest

first_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe The most intriguing early results suggest Scott Kelly experienced changes in the expression of thousands of genes; earlier this year, NASA reported that 7% of them—related to immune function, DNA repair, bone formation, and his body’s response to insufficient oxygen and abnormally high carbon dioxide levels in the blood—remained some 6 months after his return to Earth.But those changes can’t be directly attributed to life in orbit; they could simply be the result of being in an extremely stressful environment, says Christopher Mason, a geneticist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, who led the gene expression study. So, he recruited Moniz and Benegas for an Earth-side “control” experiment. Although Everest is quite different from the ISS, low oxygen levels, freezing temperatures, and strong feelings of isolation make for intensely stressful conditions.While Moniz and Benegas ascend, their twins—Kaylee Moniz and Damian Benegas—will stay at sea level and serve as their controls. The fact that the Moniz twins are fraternal is “not ideal,” Mason says. (The Benegas twins are identical.) “But you still can control 50% of their genetics, which is better than comparing completely different people with no relation.” Email Willie Benegas Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Matt Moniz during the current climb, on the Western Cwm of Mount Everest. Mount Pumori is in the background. Willie Benegas The Everest twin study, although not officially part of the NASA research, will use the same protocol. The climbers are collecting blood and microbiome samples—stool, saliva, and secretions from their eyes—at Everest Base Camp (5364 meters), both before and after acclimatization climbs, then again at Camp 3 and possibly higher. They will use supplemental oxygen on the last phase of their ascent, from Camp 3 to Everest’s 8850-meter summit. That means their final blood samples won’t be directly comparable to those taken at lower elevations, but it does increase their chances of getting to the top. It also means, Moniz jokes, that he’ll be able to keep all his brain cells for grad school.Tatum Simonson, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, who studies genetic adaptations to high altitude, says the study will offer “unique insights” into how humans respond to environmental stresses. But she cautions that because different conditions are being tested—high altitude oxygen deprivation versus microgravity—the NASA and Everest studies remain distinct.“They may be compared, but it is important to keep the differences in mind.” One area of possible comparison, she says, is changes to gene expression in pathways that respond to low oxygen, which appeared in Kelly after his year in space and are likely to appear in the two climbers.Moniz and Benegas plan to push for the summit around the middle of May, when early forecasts show a likely drop in wind. If anyone can pull it off, it may be the two of them: Benegas has made it to the top of Everest 11 times, and Moniz, a National Geographic adventurer of the year, climbed several 8000-meter peaks before the age of 19. “I love working on projects like this when I’m on expeditions,” says Moniz, who studies biomedical engineering. “[It] offers me a chance to give something back, enrich my mind.”*Correction, 5 May, 11 a.m.: An earlier version of this story reported that both twin pairs were fraternal. That has been corrected to state that only the Moniz twins are fraternal. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country By Vedrana Simicevic May. 4, 2018 , 12:15 PM Matt Moniz (right) ascends the world’s sixth-tallest peak, Mount Cho Oyu, during a 2014 climb. Two mountaineers are trying to recreate NASA’s twin study—on Mount Everest NASA’s widely publicized twin study—which compared astronaut Scott Kelly’s bodily functions to those of his earthbound identical twin brother—is getting a follow-up in one of the most forbidding environments on Earth. Two experienced mountaineers are in the middle of a month-long expedition to Mount Everest, while their twins stay at sea level. The primary goal: to sequence DNA and RNA from their white blood cells and search for possible changes in gene expression. The project is one of the most demanding high-altitude studies ever done, not least because it requires the climbers to take samples of their own blood, saliva, and feces under freezing conditions at an altitude of more than 7 kilometers—if they can manage it. So far, so good. The team, 20-year-old Dartmouth College sophomore Matt Moniz and 49-year-old professional climber Willie Benegas, has already taken three blood samples, one at Everest’s Camp 3 at an elevation of 7300 meters.The project was inspired by NASA’s twin study, which looked for changes in Kelly’s organs, cognitive function, immune function, microbiome, proteins, metabolites, and genes while he spent a year aboard the International Space Station (ISS) starting in March 2015. His identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, was an ideal control who shares his brother’s DNA, and also has previous space experience.last_img read more