Scientists Produce Healthy Mice From Sperm Kept in Space for Nearly 6 Years

Home Technology Scientists Produce Healthy Mice From Sperm Kept in Space for Nearly 6 Years
Scientists Produce Healthy Mice From Sperm Kept in Space for Nearly 6 Years
Space sperm being injected into mouse oocytes.
Space sperm being injected into mouse oocytes.
Image: Teruhiko Wakayama, University of Yamanashi

The longest biological experiment ever performed on the International Space Station has exposed the surprising durability of freeze-dried mouse sperm when exposed to space radiation.

Advertisement

The year is 2189. With the launch of Generation Starship Tycho just months away, the pace of preparations had taken on a frenetic pace. Operations manager Prisha Tengku was finalizing the installation of 10 exosomatic womb chambers when she noticed a strange box tucked away in the corner of the cryogene lab. Curious as to its contents, Tengku examined the box, finding 10 glass ampules filled with a whitish substance. Labels identified the canisters as holding freeze-dried human sperm, which had been prepared in the year 2038 and kept aboard Lagrange2 Space Station III since that time.

Tengku was immediately tempted to throw out the 151-year-old samples. There’s no way, she thought, that sperm exposed to space for so long could possibly survive all that radiation. What’s more, the freeze-dried samples were stored at room temperature, with no special protective casing. Smartly, however, she decided to check the literature to see if an expiration date existed for this sort of thing. Nothing in the recent scientific literature came up, so she broadened her research, resulting in the discovery of an obscure paper from 2021 that appeared in Science Advances. 

The paper, co-authored by Teruhiko Wakayama from the Advanced Biotechnology Center at the University of Yamanashi in Japan, describes an experiment in which freeze-dried mouse sperm remained viable after spending nearly six years aboard the International Space Station. Ionizing space radiation is known to damage cellular DNA, triggering potentially deleterious inheritable mutations. The researchers aimed to determine the long-term effects of space radiation on mammalian sperm kept on the International Space Station and how this exposure might affect normal reproduction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.