Freeze-dried mouse sperm remains viable after being in space for almost six YEARS

Freeze-dried mouse sperm remains viable after being on the International Space Station for almost six YEARS – raising hopes for space babies in the near future

Study found freeze-dried mouse sperm still viable after nearly six years in spaceIt had long been thought radiation from cosmic rays would damage sperm DNAResearchers in Japan sent mice sperm to International Space Station to test thisThey found it did not affect sperm DNA or ability to produce healthy ‘space pups’

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

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

Not only did radiation not affect the sperm’s DNA or its ability to produce healthy ‘space pups’, scientists estimate it could actually be preserved in space for more than 200 years without 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 almost six years

'Space pups: The radiation did not affect the sperm's DNA or its ability to produce healthy mice offspring. The sperm were injected into fresh ovary cells back on Earth (pictured)

‘Space pups: The radiation did not affect the sperm’s DNA or its ability to produce healthy mice offspring. The sperm were injected into fresh ovary cells back on Earth (pictured)

HOW DOES RADIATION AFFECT SPERM IN SPACE? 

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

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

Scientists have long thought that exposure to space radiation from solar winds and cosmic rays could damage the DNA of sperm cells and lead to mutations being passed down to offspring. 

However, a study by researchers at the University of Yamanashi in Japan found that long-term space travel did not damage the DNA of the space-preserved samples, compared with the control samples.

Not only did radiation not affect the sperm’s DNA or its ability to produce healthy ‘space pups’, scientists estimate it could actually be preserved in space for more than 200 years without damage.

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

The study allays long-held concerns that space radiation exposure could damage the DNA of cells and lead to mutations being passed down to offspring.

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

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

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

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