Researchers have successfully bred a litter of mice pups using sperm that was frozen and then stored at the International Space Station.
The scientists behind the experiment say that the ability to successfully store, and then transport sperm from space back to Earth could become useful during the “space age” when humans are exploring the wider solar system with ease.
The Japanese team have even suggested that it could lead to the first ‘lunar sperm bank’ allowing humanity to store samples on the Moon should a natural or manmade disaster take place on Earth.
The findings, published in a leading science journal, show how the team were able to freeze a sample of mice sperm, transport it to the International Space Station and then store it there for nine months.
It was then brought back to Earth, thawed at room temperature and used to create a litter of mice pups.
During their analysis the research team found that the sperm DNA was slightly damaged upon re-entry however many of the imperfections were repaired during the embryonic process.
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Once born it was found that the pups had very slight differences in their genetic code, however all were able to grow to adulthood.
It’s not clear yet what the current benefits would be in being able to freeze sperm, however the researchers believe it could have more profound consequences as humanity enters the “space age”.
Professor Joseph Tash from the University of Kansas Medical Center isn’t entirely surprised by the findings.
Speaking about the study he confirmed that the ISS was still a relatively safe environment compared locations like the Moon or Mars.
For example the station still falls well within the Van Allen belt, a protective shield that blocks much of the Sun’s harmful radiation.
If the sperm had been stored on the Moon, he believes the results could be very different.
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