Freeze-dried mouse sperm remains viable after nearly six YEARS in space

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Freeze-dried mouse sperm remains viable after nearly six YEARS on the International Space Station – sparks hope for space babies in the near future

  • Study found freeze-dried mouse sperm is still viable after nearly six years in space
  • For a long time it was thought that radiation from cosmic rays would damage sperm DNA DNA
  • Researchers in Japan sent mouse sperm to the International Space Station to test this
  • They found it didn’t affect sperm DNA or the ability to produce healthy ‘space pups’

The idea of ​​babies being born in space may sound more like the work of science fiction.

But it could soon become a reality after a study found that freeze-dried mouse sperm remained viable after being on the International Space Station (ISS) for nearly six years.

Not only did radiation not affect the sperm’s DNA or ability to produce healthy “space boy,” scientists estimate that it could even be stored in space for more than 200 years without causing damage.

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Discovery: A study by researchers in Japan found that freeze-dried mouse sperm remained viable after being on the International Space Station (ISS) for nearly six years

Discovery: A study by researchers in Japan found that freeze-dried mouse sperm remained viable after being on the International Space Station (ISS) for nearly six years

“Space Boy: The radiation didn’t affect the sperm’s DNA or the ability to produce healthy mouse offspring. The sperm was injected into fresh ovarian cells back on Earth (pictured)

HOW DOES RADIATION INFLUENCE SPERM IN SPACE?

To test whether radiation irreparably damages sperm, a study sent samples of freeze-dried mouse sperm to be stored on the International Space Station for nearly six years.

The semen samples were stored in small capsules sealed at a temperature of -22°F (-30°C).

Scientists have long believed that exposure to space radiation from solar winds and cosmic rays could damage sperm DNA and lead to mutations being passed on to offspring.

However, a study by researchers at the University of Yamanashi in Japan found that prolonged space travel did not damage the DNA of the samples stored in space, compared to the control samples.

Not only did radiation not affect the sperm’s DNA or ability to produce healthy “space boy,” scientists estimate that it could even be stored in space for more than 200 years without causing damage.

“The space radiation did not affect the DNA or the fertility of the sperm after storage on ISS, and many genetically normal offspring were obtained without reducing the success rate compared to the ground-stored control,” said Yamanashi University researchers. in Japan.

The study addresses long-held concerns that exposure to radiation in space could damage cells’ DNA and lead to mutations being passed on to offspring.

A lack of freezers on the ISS has always prevented long-term studies of the area, while previous studies on Earth have failed to replicate space radiation from solar wind and cosmic rays.

To solve the problem, lead author Sayaka Wakayama and her colleagues freeze-dried and sealed semen samples from 12 mice in small capsules, which were then transported to the ISS without the need for a freezer.

Some samples were returned to Earth after nine months to confirm that the experiment worked, while two more batches remained on the ISS for nearly three years or nearly six years, respectively.

Once back on Earth, scientists tested how much radiation the samples had absorbed, while also examining whether there was damage to the sperm nuclei.

They found that the stint in space, whether it was three or six years, did not lead to DNA damage to the freeze-dried sperm.

Researchers also rehydrated the sperm cells, injecting them into fresh ovarian cells and transferring them to female mice, resulting in the birth of healthy pups.

Using RNA sequencing, they determined that there were no differences in gene expression between the “space pups” and controls born from sperm stored on Earth.

Frozen: Scientists freeze-dried and sealed semen samples from 12 mice in small capsules (shown) at -22°F (-30°C).  They were transported to the ISS without the need for a freezer

Frozen: Scientists freeze-dried and sealed semen samples from 12 mice in small capsules (shown) at -22°F (-30°C). They were transported to the ISS without the need for a freezer

Researchers injected the sperm cells into fresh ovarian cells and transferred them to female mice, resulting in the birth of healthy pups.  This photo shows the sperm embryos

Researchers injected the sperm cells into fresh ovarian cells and transferred them to female mice, resulting in the birth of healthy pups. This photo shows the sperm embryos

Orbiting the Earth: The International Space Station is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory orbiting 400km above Earth

Orbiting the Earth: The International Space Station is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory orbiting 400km above Earth

“We obtained many healthy ‘space pup’ progeny from space-preserved spermatozoa with the same success rate as the ground controls,” the authors said.

‘These space pups showed no differences from the ground control pups and their next generation had no abnormalities either.’

Looking ahead to the future, Wakayama and her colleagues said research like theirs was “important for humanity to advance into the space age.”

They suggested that underground storage on the moon, such as in lava tubes, could be one of the best places to store sperm for extended periods of time in the distant future because of protection against space radiation and possible disasters on Earth.

“In the future, when it comes time to migrate to other planets, we will have to preserve the diversity of genetic resources, not only for humans, but also for pets and pets,” the authors said.

“For cost and safety reasons, it is likely that stored germ cells will be transported by spaceships rather than living animals.”

The study is published in the journal scientific progress.

EXPLAINED: THE $100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION IS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth.

It has been permanently manned by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.

Research aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have explored human research, space medicine, life sciences, natural sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency NASA spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee overseeing NASA has begun investigating whether the program could be extended beyond 2024.

Alternatively, the money could be used to accelerate planned human space initiatives to the Moon and Mars.

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