Washington Is Now Composting Human Bodies

Grind for May 25th, 2019
“I’ll never graduate from collagen.”

– Dolly Parton

To Infinity And Beyond

The Headline

NASA study reveals new information about the effects of long-term spaceflight on the human body

The Grind

In 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly arrived at the International Space Station. When he returned 340 years later, he broke the record for the longest consecutive off-world journey by a human astronaut.

Kelly’s journey was part of a massive NASA experiment designed to better understand the effects of spaceflight on the human body. While he was at the ISS, Scott underwent a number of biomedical studies, provided blood and urine samples, and received vaccines.

Scott’s identical twin brother Mark (also an astronaut) went through the same lab tests on Earth.

According to a NASA press release, scientists observed “thousands and thousands of changes at the molecular and genetic level.”

The Grind

Perhaps the most crucial discovery was the success of the flu vaccine in space. Scott’s immune system responded to the vaccine in exactly the same way Mark’s immune system responded.

Flu vaccines and other preventative measures will be necessary during NASA’s planned expedition to Mars by 2035. The roundtrip journey to the Red Planet is expected to take up to 913 days.

Other changes observed during Scott’s journey:

–Changes in gene expression and immune system response

— Changes in how DNA is packaged

— Changes in gut microbiome

— Temporary increase in height

— Better performance on cognitive tests

— Thickening of the retina

The most unexpected discovery was the effect of spaceflight on Scott’s telomeres (the protective ends of chromosomes that shorten with age). Scott’s telomeres grew longer in space and then shortened back to normal averages when he returned to Earth.

All other changes Scott experienced in space appear to have reversed when he returned; but as noted in NASA’s official report, an estimated seven percent of the changes in Scott’s genes persisted for six months after he arrived on Earth.

“The Twins Study provides the first integrated bimolecular view into how the human body responds to the spaceflight environment and serves as a genomic stepping stone to better understand how to maintain crew health during human expeditions to the Moon and Mars,” wrote NASA.

“The vision of the future would be to look at the entire genetic code, all the molecular structures and changes in an individual, and then customize what he or she will need for long-term missions.”

The results of the Twins Study were published April 12th, 2019 in the journal Science.

Going Green

The Headline

Washington becomes first state to allow “human composting”

The Grind

Washington state’s environmentalist Governor Jay Inslee (D) on Tuesday signed a bill allowing licensed facilities to offer human composting as a burial option.

Human composting is an environmentally friendly burial method in which the body is allowed to decay naturally without the use of preservatives or expensive caskets.

Families of the decreased can choose to take the soil that remains after the process is complete.

In addition to conserving natural resources and preserving natural areas, human composting costs less than a traditional burial and eliminates hazardous chemicals like formaldehyde.

The Details

Human composting is similar to the “eco-burial” option the Chinese government has promoted for years to save space.

“The body is covered in natural materials, like straw or wood chips, and over the course of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it breaks down into soil,” explains Katrina Spade, CEO of human composting company Recompose.

Spade hopes to offer the alternative burial service for $5,500 when the new law goes into effect next May.

Did you know… You see your nose at all times, your brain just chooses to ignore it.