Douglas Terrier, NASA’s acting chief technologist, said the ¬organization was investigating drugs that might repair the damage to DNA, and was open to the possibility of tweaking genetic ¬activity or altering genes. Dr Terrier said that most of the day-to-day running of the spaceship would be handed over to a “strong” artificial intelligence program capable of diagnosing diseases and directing robotic surgery because of the 20-minute lag in communications with Earth.
Fact is that sending humans beyond Earth’s magnetic field for a long time will mean exposing them to charged atomic nuclei that can tear through DNA, increasing the risk of cancer and dementia. One of the experimental DNA therapies whose progress NASA is monitoring closely is a compound called NMN, which is expected to enter clinical trials this year after effectively rejuvenating old mice in laboratory tests. Epigenetic modifications would involve altering the chemicals that control the volume on genes so that their activity could be silenced or amplified if something went wrong.