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Space Earth Medicine Science

Sperm Stored In Space Produces Healthy Baby Mice On Earth (theguardian.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Reproduction may be possible in space, Japanese researchers have said, after freeze-dried sperm stored on the International Space Station for nine months produced healthy offspring. The scientists said their findings could have significant ramifications for human settlements in space, which they consider "likely." The average daily radiation dose on the ISS is about 100 times stronger than that on Earth, posing a threat of serious reproductive problems for any space-dwelling organism. But mouse sperm stored on the ISS for 288 days from August 2013 to May 2014, then returned to Earth, fertilized in vitro and transferred into female mice, produced healthy offspring. The space-preserved samples showed evidence of slightly increased DNA damage compared with control samples preserved on Earth, but this was found to be largely repaired in embryos following fertilization. The birth rate and sex ratio of pups derived from the sperm stored in space was comparable to those of pups derived from the control samples. Subsequent whole genome analysis revealed only minor differences, and the pups developed into adults with normal fertility. The study was published in the proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
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Sperm Stored In Space Produces Healthy Baby Mice On Earth

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  • freeze-dried? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday May 22, 2017 @11:39PM (#54467799) Homepage Journal

    There are better ways to store sperm, freeze-dried would compromise the cellular membrane and render it immobile. You'd be limited to using direct injection methods in order to fertilize an egg.
    It is certainly fascinating to see how robust these gametes are, but for the first interstellar diaspora it would be nice to retain our natural biological reproduction process that does not depend so heavily on technology. Becoming a race of beings that withers away in a generation if technology is lost makes an interesting science fiction story, but it's not a great plan for the human race.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      "There are better ways to store sperm, freeze-dried would compromise the cellular membrane and render it immobile. "

      Stored for 9 months in space, exposed to 100x the radiation dose? Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Or better yet, your published paper supporting your claim.
      • by Beau1080p ( 4928265 ) on Tuesday May 23, 2017 @12:32AM (#54467951)
        tored for 9 months in space, exposed to 100x the radiation dose? Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Or better yet, your published paper supporting your claim.

        You're missing the real point here from the headline. They collect sperm in outer space, STORE IT, and when it gets back to planet earth, instead of giving birth to people, they give birth to mice. Now that's messed up.

        --Beau--
      • Liquid nitrogen, like every fertility clinic has been using for decades. The radiation doesn't matter if it's dried or cryogenic, angry protons don't care what temperature you are.

        Freeze-dried is nice for an experiment like this because it weights less and you don't have complexities of cryogenic gas venting. But it's not the best way to store cells if viability is your goal.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          Just as I thought. You have nothing to support your claim, so you simply modify it.

          OTOH, the authors of the paper were quite clear on why this method was better for their purposes:

          For the present study, we decided to freeze-dry the mouse spermatozoa rather than use traditional cryopreservation methods. When spermatozoa are freeze-dried or evaporatively dried, none of the sperm survive; however, mouse spermatozoa can maintain the ability to generate offspring when added to water and microinjected into fresh

          • I think the part you quoted is exactly what's said by GP. From that quote, freeze-drying is indeed often not a good way to preserve sperm (check), but at least they could inject it into the eggs (check), and the main advantage is that the samples are "very light and occupy a small volume" (check) and easily launched into space. The last part can indeed be added retroactively, but at least GP's initial claims check out.

            • by msauve ( 701917 )
              The GP made the blanket statement that "there are better ways to store sperm." "Better" can only be relative to the need. The authors decided that for their needs, freeze-drying was the best means. Things other than just long term viability factored in, which the GP simply ignored.
              • Let me quote myself, because perhaps you overlooked some key points that are consistent and not simply me modifying my position. (I'm responding since you don't smell like a troll)

                Point 1.

                There are better ways to store sperm, freeze-dried would compromise the cellular membrane and render it immobile. You'd be limited to using direct injection methods in order to fertilize an egg.

                Point 2.

                Freeze-dried is nice for an experiment like this because it weights less and you don't have complexities of cryogenic gas venting. But it's not the best way to store cells if viability is your goal.

                The second is an elaboration on the first, but the first sums it up pretty nicely. My claims are generally accepted, I can dig up some old papers if you're interested (and I met some of the people that wrote them).

                Disclaimer: I'm not an embryologist by profession, but thankfully we all don't have to be experts in o

  • kinda fits.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We need to produce atomic powered super mice, not more useless lab mice

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Tuesday May 23, 2017 @12:21AM (#54467917) Journal

    Ok, before we talk about colonizing Mars or any other planet with gravity not equal to earth's (and that includes zero gee), we need to see if mice, at least, can become pregnant, bring their pups to term and have them live a full healthy life on the space station. Preferably for two or more generations.

    Why? Well this would be the best indication that it will be possible for humans to do the same and, IF (and this is a big if) humans respond similarly AND if partial gravity (like Mars' 1/3 G or the Moon's 1/6 G) is less harmful than the zero gee (okay "micro-gravity") in the space station, then that would be an important first step to determining whether or not humans are capable (without modification) of colonizing other worlds or space itself.

    If the mice cannot conceive or do not develop normally through their entire life cycle, then a long process of finding the cut-off point from 0 to 1 G may have to begin. Then, because humans are not mice, this program may have to be repeated (someday) with (very brave) volunteer couples. So let's hope that this first test is passed successfully; it would alleviate "some" concern that these human trials may not end in tragedy.

    There are plenty of other concerns about raising humans in outer space (radiation, isolation, etc.) but some of these other problems can be overcome with technology we already possess (like lots of shielding). Too low gravity? Well unless we want the colonists to be spending a large amount of time during pregnancy and potentially child rearing in big centrifuges, there is no currently known way to artificially create it (or lessen it).

    Then again, there's the possibility of Humans 2.0. That's why I'm studying genetic engineering! :)

    • Then, because humans are not mice, this program may have to be repeated (someday) with (very brave) volunteer couples.

      I volunteer!
      (Already have two kids, would love to make one in space)

      I think you wouldn't have much of a problem finding "brave" volunteers for that kind of experiment, couples would line up for it.

    • This is a critical reason we should be focusing on the moon first for colonization and science such as reproduction.

      Magnitudes faster than the same on Mars.

      As well, who wouldn't want to see mice sex in space? If it doesn't work insemination would still be a good test.

  • ...except it wasn't mouse sperm to start with. It turns out that ANY sperm stored in space produces healthy baby mice no matter what animal it was to start with. It's really a puzzle for scientists and a disappointment for astronauts.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My wife is an astronaut, and we're expecting a litter of mice in a few weeks.

  • It does not surprise me that Spam stored in space shows no degradation.

  • Never realized there were so many Vonnegut fans in Japan
  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday May 23, 2017 @02:28AM (#54468103)

    Sperm Stored In Space Produces Healthy Baby Mice On Earth

    This would be excellent news, if the sperm hadn't come from a moose.

  • Have a couple sent in space, give them private quarter, let them have a little bit of naughty fun, and wait for 9 month. Should be trivial enough to find voluntary people to do it... oh, and we'll save a bunch of public money that way too.
    • Considering the many "amateur" pages on the internet, I doubt that the "private quarter" would be necessary. Just offer a live broadcast and a cut of the profits.

  • It sounds like women will be necessary in the first generation, unless artificial womb technology matures. There won't be any need to send men on the first generation of colonists, and we can have a large sperm repository to increase genetic diversity in the first few generations.

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