Mice Sperm in Space Proves to be Viable

Researchers conducted an experiment that will aid scientists in determining whether or not humans will be able to successfully reproduce in space. After orbiting around the planet for nine months, freeze-dried mouse sperm exposed to the harsh environment of space have successfully produced litters of healthy baby mice, researchers reported yesterday. Click the jump to read more about the experiment.

The experiment, nicknamed Space Pups, was initially conducted in August 2013, when the freeze-dried mice sperm was sent to the International Space Station (ISS). Then, tucked into a freezer set at -95 Celsius in the station’s Japanese module, the freeze-dried sperm stayed in space for 288 days, or roughly nine months. Over that time, a radiation monitor attached to the storage box recorded radiation levels roughly a hundred times higher than those on Earth’s surface. In May 2014, the spermatozoa hitched a ride back home via a SpaceX rocket, and Wakayama and his colleagues injected the sperm into mice eggs, which was then implanted into female mice. The results: a healthy litter with little differentiation in gene patterns compared to mice conceived and born on Earth.

Although the sperm was successful in creating baby mice, researchers have a long way to go before determining whether or not humans can successfully do the same under worse environmental conditions, that can potentially damage genetic makeup. On Earth, everyone is protected under its magnetic field, blocking most of the harmful radiation found in space. So far, scientists have studied how a handful of organisms reproduce in space, including rats, fish, salamanders, and sea urchins. The results are mixed: Rats didn’t manage to produce pups at all during a 1979 experiment conducted on the Russian Cosmos 1129 satellite. While sea urchin sperm also didn’t do so well, fish, fruit flies, and nematodes successfully reproduced.

Via: National Geographic