A team of Japanese scientists raised an important question as it looked to determine if humans and animals could one day reproduce in space. To test and better study this fact, the researchers deployed frozen sperm and stored it aboard the ISS. As it returned to Earth, these same samples helped give birth to healthy baby mice.
Frozen Sperm can Help Give Birth to Healthy Mice Babies, but Here on Earth
The researchers pointed out that the ISS (International Space Station) has to deal with an average daily dose of radiation 100 times higher than that here on the planet. In turn, this could lead to damages to the reproductive system of most animals.
So to better establish the effects of living in space on animal offspring, the team freeze-dried mouse sperm. These samples were then launched in space and stored aboard the ISS. They were kept there in between August 2013 to May 2014 or 288 days at -139 degrees Fahrenheit.
At the same time, the researchers preserved an identical set of samples here on Earth, but under the same conditions. As the space-bound frozen sperm returned from its trip, it was analyzed and compared to the terrestrially kept one.
The research team found that the ISS samples showed signs if DNA damage, slightly more than the control ones. This came as quite a surprise, according to Teruhiko Wakayama, the study’s senior author.
Still, the space-bound frozen sperm was also used for the in vitro fertilization of female mice. The team compared the average birth rates resulting from the two samples groups and noted that they were comparable. They also found that the male-to-female ratio was in the normal range.
An analysis of the healthy mice babies and their genomes also revealed only minor differences to the other offspring. As the space fertilized babies grew, they developed into normal, fertile adults, which then had healthy offspring of their own.
The study team published its research results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Their research findings generated mixed opinions, as some underline its being a first step in the area. At the same time, others pointed out the results’ dependency on several factors, such as their Earth return.
But as the study author Wakayama pointed out ” it is too preliminary to say it is a good idea or if it is possible.”
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