Wednesday, 23 August, 2017

Space Sperm Produces Healthy Mice, Researchers Say

Mouse pups derived from space-preserved Mouse pups derived from space-preserved
Carlton Santiago | 24 May, 2017, 04:17

But no one knows whether the reproductive cells could withstand the ravages of DNA-damaging radiation in space.

We have lift-off. Freeze-dried mouse sperm that spent nine months in space has successfully impregnated female mice and created healthy offspring.

According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of dudes in white coats conducted experiments that suggested human sperm could be freeze-dried and buried beneath the moon's surface.

They can then be injected in the egg cells of healthy female mice, where they developed into healthy "space pups" after 19 days of gestation.

The scientists believe their findings suggest that DNA damage seen in the space preserved sperm got repaired in the embryos after the in vitro fertilization.

"Although those sperm had a little bit of damage by space radiation, the following offspring were all normal", Wakayama added.

This study also proves that since sperm can be stored in space, animal sperm can be used to reproduce animals, thus, making human existence more possible.

As the researchers argue, this is good news for any serious efforts to expand into space long-term.

He said the feasibility of mammalian reproduction in space beyond the Van Allen belt would depend on the creation of "radiation-hardened" facilities that could protect sperm, eggs and embryos from harm.

Still, there are limits to this research. Samples were stored in a freezer with a temperature of -95 C for nine months, before to fly back to Earth on the vehicle SpaceX-3. Considering the current technological limit for sperm preservation is only about two years, this seems fine - for now, anyway.

On the ISS, astronauts receive between 10 to 100 times more radiation that they do on Earth, and studies have found that the parts of the body most sensitive to the exposure are the reproductive organs. It appears that space radiation does cause DNA damage in the sperm, but do not affect fertility or health of future offspring.

The freeze-dried samples were launched in 2013 and returned to Earth in 2014.

Professor Joseph Tash at the University of Kansas agreed the study findings had limited significance for human reproduction in space.

Wakayama said it's likely humans would live in space for several years or more at a time in the future and would use technology to assist in reproduction and maintain the diversity of mammals. All the registered genetic differences between the two types of pups were also minor.

In space, living beings are exposed to much weaker gravity and intense cosmic radiation that can easily damage genetic material.

"I'm not surprised this sperm is fine", said Donoviel, according to The Verge. On Earth, we're protected by this radiation thanks to our atmosphere and magnetic field; the magnetic field around our planet, known as the magnetosphere, deflects or captures the incoming particles, and the ones that make it through are mostly absorbed by our atmosphere. "There are much higher risks in deep space". Still, it's unclear how partial gravity may affect a developing embryo, and we won't know until we test it out.

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