Previous experiments have shown mixed results when assessing the reproductive capabilities of certain animals in space. "The goal of our study is to demonstrate that there is a possibility to breed these domestic animals in space", the study's lead author Teruhiko Wakayama, from the University of Yamanashi (Japan) told IBTimes UK.
Astronauts on the ISS are protected from a lot of radiation, but they are still counseled about cryopreserving their eggs and sperm, according to Joseph Tash, a professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center who now studies how space affects male and female reproductive health. Scientists are now unclear on whether reproductive mechanisms can handle those conditions and still go on to turn sperm and eggs into offspring. In deep space, on the moon, or even on Mars, gravity is much weaker, and radiation is much more of a danger.
Researchers launched a freeze-dried sperm sample to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2013, which came back to Earth in 2014. If such a structure were to be built, we could store sperm samples there in order to protect them from possible hazards here on Earth.
This has led to concerns that radiation could kill or mutate sperm and pose serious reproductive problems for those travelling in space for extended periods. Which seems to point that any genetic damage incurred while aboard the ISS was repaired naturally, after fertilization.
But when the freeze-dried samples were reconstituted with water - something that's not yet possible with human sperm - and used to impregnate female mice via in vitro fertilisation (IVF), the litter of space pups were healthy. All the registered genetic differences between the two types of pups were also minor. "Therefore, sperm could be preserved forever" on the moon, Wakayama said. Then, after an easy pregnancy (because I've decided that morning sickness does not exist in space), I will give birth to a healthy, human space child.
Professor Wakayama warned against drawing too many conclusions from the research.
As the offspring of the Space Pup turned into adults, they also had healthy, normal babies of their own.
The findings could have significant ramifications for human space colonies, scientists say.
"Unfortunately, to bring live mice and take care [of them] in space is too hard", Professor Teruhiko Wakayama, one of the lead authors of the study, told The Guardian. "There are much higher risks in deep space". "Given the nine-month gestation for humans, the pregnant mother would also need to be protected by such a facility", he adds.
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