Wednesday, 03 Nov, 2010 Science
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Genetically Enhanced Astronauts Could Boost Manned Space Exploration Program

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J. Craig Venter, a well-known scientist who managed to decode the human genome, assumes that NASA's manned spaceflight program could register a significant boost in case the agency starts recruiting genetically enhanced astronauts.

"I think this [may potentially] change the shape of what NASA does, if you make the commitment to do it," said the researcher at an event that took place at Ames Research Center.

Venter considers that genetically enhanced astronauts will be able to handle easier and more effectively the problems that may occur during spaceflight or colonization of other planets.

One of the most radioresistant organisms on Earth is the microbe Deinococcus radiodurans. It can resist extreme radiation doses that are 7,000 times higher than the doses that would kill a human. Venter said that if scientists will be able to understand how to integrate such super-charged DNA repair genes into the human genome, it would be possible to create much more resistant astronauts, reports Space.com.

The scientist also mentioned that other efforts in the field of genetics could focus on making or modifying microbes to increase the production of food, water and renewable fuel.

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