Apparently, you can freeze-dry mouse sperm, fly it around space, and still make healthy mouse babies
Scientists are looking ahead to a time when the darling people of Earth will no longer be…well, living on Earth. Instead, we’ll be living in space habitats and potentially using frozen eggs and sperm to further the human race. With that in mind, scientists from the University of Yamanashi in Japan sent freeze-dried mouse sperm to the International Space Station, flew it around the station for nine months, and then used it to birth beautiful baby mice. (They call these healthy little critters “Space Pups,” which yes, is extremely adorable.)
Why is it necessary to go through such a lengthy (and, might we add, expensive) rigmarole? Well, according to the New York Times:
“At an altitude of 250 miles, where the station orbits, radiation is more than 100 times stronger than on earth. The scientists…wanted to find out if prolonged exposure would affect fertility or the health of any offspring.
Aw yes, the joys of radiation. There’s so much about living in space (for a prolonged period) that we have yet to learn.
As with many scientific experiments, researchers use animal stand-ins to build a foundation of knowledge before tossing a human into the equation. (Fun fact: Freeze-dried mouse sperm can be reconstituted with water like some of your favorite powdery drinks, like Ovaltine or Kool-Aid.) Even though the DNA of the freeze-dried space sperm showed a slight increase in damage compared to freeze-dried Earth sperm, it still did what it was supposed to do: fertilize eggs. And, well, the space pups also went on to have healthy babies of their own.
There’s so much out there we still don’t know. But one thing is for sure: NASA is testing the crap out of the International Space Station.
As of now, hundreds of other experiments are underway aboard the ISS. They are obviously/particularly interested in what zero-gravity does to their astronauts and how to keep them space-safe. A weird fact: Without gravity, eyeballs get squashed (as in, slightly flattened).
Oh boy, we’re gonna have to pass on trips to weightlessness for now. We like our eyeballs as they are, thank you very much.
(H/T The New York Times)