168 'space' mice born from frozen sperm on the ISS

Mouse sperm frozen on the International Space Station (ISS) for nearly 6 years was brought back to Earth and fertilized, resulting in 168 "space" mice without genetic defects.

168 'space' mice born from frozen sperm on the ISS

Healthy, non-mutated pups were born from frozen mouse sperm on the ISS. Photo: AFP

According to AFP news agency, the results of the study by Japanese scientists were published in the journal Science Advances on June 11.

Lead author and biologist Teruhiko Wakayama said there was little difference between mice fertilized with sperm frozen in space and sperm frozen on Earth.

“All the pups are normal in appearance. When the researchers examined the genes, we didn't find any abnormalities," explains Wakayama.

In 2013, Wakayama and colleagues at Yamanashi University (Japan) brought three boxes, each containing 48 frozen rat sperm tubes to the ISS for long-term research. The sperm tubes are only about the size of a small pencil, reducing the cost of launching into space.

They wanted to determine whether long-term exposure to radiation in space would damage the DNA in reproductive cells or pass the mutation on to the next generation. This is an issue that humanity needs to pay attention to when carrying out future space exploration and colonial mining missions.

Wakayama writes in the report: “In the future, when the time comes to migrate to other planets, we will need to confirm the diversity of genetic resources, not only for humans but also for livestock and pet. However, for reasons of cost and safety, it is more likely that the stored stem cells will be transported by spacecraft rather than in live animals." In addition, Wakayama points out that freezing sperm in space can maintain the breed in the event of a catastrophic extinction on Earth.

The researchers performed inseminations from frozen batches of sperm on the ISS at different intervals, from the first nine months, then two years, and finally six years. A total of 168 pups were born.

They confirmed that adult "space" mice were randomly mated with each other. The offspring of these mice were also genetically normal.

According to Wakayama, the process of freezing sperm increases the viability of sperm compared to fresh sperm, because frozen sperm does not contain water inside the nucleus and cells. The scientific team calculates that frozen sperm can be stored for up to 200 years on the ISS.

Because outer space contains a lot of strong radiation from solar particles and galactic cosmic rays, the study notes that further monitoring of the effects of space radiation on frozen eggs and eggs is still needed. embryos fertilized women before humans take the next step.

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