Frozen mouse sperm spent 6 years in orbit were used to conceive eight healthy “space puppies”

According to a new study, healthy “space pups” were born from frost-dried mouse sperm that orbited the planet on the International Space Station (ISS) for almost six years.

DNA damage Radiation on the ISS 100 times stronger From Earth. The radiation beyond the ISS, which is still protected from radiation by the magnetic fields of our planet, is even stronger.

“Before the advent of the space age, it is very important to study the effects of cosmic rays not only on living things but also on future generations,” the authors write in a paper. “Space radiation can cause DNA damage to cells and affect the inheritance of mutations in offspring after space exploration.”

If human sperm are similarly elastic in space and the earth becomes habitable in the future, lyophilized sperm may have a role to play in the regrowth of space colonies.

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Climate change and a potential apocalyptic future will allow people to push the boundaries of our planets and look at planets and satellites that could live in space. Researchers are trying to understand whether cosmic rays can harm mammals and other animals. DNA And make it impossible to reproduce We will keep humanity alive.

Embryos developed normally in the laboratory after being fertilized with lyophilized sperm that were stored in space. They are shown here in the 8-cell stage. (Image courtesy Teruhiko Wakayama, University of Yamanashi)

However, the authors write that there is no easy way to study the long-term effects of cosmic rays on biological material. It is difficult to get live animals and cells to the ISS, the space center closest to such research. These cells require regular maintenance.

According to the paper, most research on the effects of cosmic rays is done in conditions that mimic the universe, not the universe. This is challenging because cosmic rays contain various types of energy particles that cannot be reproduced on Earth, such as the solar wind, solar cosmic rays, and galactic cosmic rays.

In a new study, Japanese researchers discovered a new way to study the radiation from mammalian sperm. Researchers have freeze-dried mouse sperm. This is a technology that allows sperm to be stored at room temperature for over a year.

This allowed the team to fire sperm into the ISS without the need for a freezer. According to the paper, sperm dehydration also kept burning costs down by using “light and small” ampoules to store sperm.

The semen was launched on the ISS in August 2013 and upon arrival the astronauts stored the semen in a freezer at minus 139 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 95 degrees Celsius). Some samples were returned after 9 months, others after 2 years and 9 months, and the last sample was returned after 5 years and 10 months. The longest biological sample is stored on the ISS.

Nine months later, researchers found that sperm DNA and male gamete core damage were slightly higher than healthy controls, but fertilization and fertility rates were similar in 2017. I reported about it in an article published in the year. Protocols of the National Academy of Sciences.

Long-term spatial effect

In a new study, the researchers looked at the remaining sperm samples. They are a “plastic nuclear track detector,” a device made from a polymer that is sensitive to charged particles, and a “thermoluminescence dosimetry,” which absorbs and captures radiant energy to detect the amount of radiation absorbed by sperm. “Measurement” was used. Next, we tested the extent of DNA damage to the sperm nucleus.

They found that sperm absorb about 0.61 millisievert (mSv) / day. In comparison, the NASA limit for astronauts exposed to radiation in low Earth orbit is around 50 mSv / year or 0.14 mSv / day. According to NASA .. Researchers found that long-term storage on the ISS did not significantly damage sperm DNA.

After rehydrating the sperm, they injected it into female mice and found that the mice gave birth to eight healthy pups. These pups showed no difference in gene expression compared to the controls – 8 pups born from sperm preserved in the same way on Earth.

Healthy puppies were born from the sperm stored in space. (Image courtesy Teruhiko Wakayama, University of Yamanashi)

“So far, this is the only method to investigate the effects of cosmic rays on the next generation,” writes the author.

Researchers also found freeze-dried mouse sperm x-rays on Earth, we discovered that such radiation-exposed sperm can still produce healthy puppies. Researchers say that while there are differences in DNA damage from X-rays and cosmic rays, lyophilized mouse sperm can be stored on the ISS for more than 200 years before they are no longer viable. It was.

It is not yet clear how the results will be converted into human embryos.

Lyophilized sperm showed a “strong resistance” to cosmic radiation. The authors suspect that this could be due to a lack of water molecules in frozen cells. Radiation is thought to cause DNA free radical damage, which occurs when energy particles interact with water molecules in cells, the researchers write.

Still, the ISS is not a good example of space as it orbits in the protective magnetic field of the earth. Studies show that high-density ionizing particle radiation from space can cause more DNA damage in cells. Such experiments can be reproduced, for example, on the lunar orbit platform gateway (unmanned space probe) planned by NASA. Monthly circulating stations, they wrote.

If this method should also prove to be a reliable way of preserving sperm and germ cells, “in the distant future, underground storage of the moon, such as lava tubes, will be one of the best places for long-term or permanent preservation”. . Their very low temperatures, the protection from cosmic rays through thick rock formations and the complete isolation from any catastrophe on earth, ”the researchers wrote. “These discoveries are essential and important for mankind to advance into the space age.”

The results were published in the Journal on Friday (June 11th). Scientific advances.

Originally published in Live Science.

Frozen mouse sperm that had spent 6 years in orbit was used to produce eight healthy “space pups”

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