Scientists kept mouse sperm in space for 9 months—then tried making babies
Mice sperm can survive the radiation exposure of space, according to a new study, something that could be useful to humans in the future.
Back in 2013, mouse sperm was freeze-dried and sent to the International Space Station for nine months. Back on Earth, mice were then artificially inseminated with the preserved space sperm. Those birth rates were pretty similar to mice made from Earth-preserved sperm from the same mice. The offspring even grew up into normal mice and had normal fertility, according to findings published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from Japanese scientists.
The study found that despite some DNA damage to the sperm from space radiation — which is 100 times stronger than that on Earth — the mice sperm and offspring fared pretty similarly to controls.
The sperm was kept in room temperature in space and likely could be preserved similarly for humans in the future — no need for a freezer. That’s a boon for weight-conscious launches to the space station.
The experiment also showed that human sperm could survive space using the freeze-drying method.
“Sperm preservation in the event of disasters on Earth will be an important tool for maintaining the genetic diversity of mammalian species, much like plant seed preservation in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault,” the study authors wrote.
Beside finding a good sperm preservation method, these mice show that if (or when) humans start living in space or colonizing other planets, the human race might be able to survive.
Space, here we come.