Human Births On Mars? New Research Indicates Human Sperm Could Last 200 Years On Red Planet.

 

“NASA and several organizations are now beginning to plan manned missions to Mars.  … However, interplanetary deep space is populated not only by microgravity, but also by strong radiation such as galactic cosmic rays, which originate outside the solar system, plus solar particles, which include high-charge, high-energy particles that are difficult to shield from a spacecraft.”

Science Advances, June 11, 2021

Hubble Telescope's sharpest image of Mars taken on March 17, 1997.
Hubble Telescope’s sharpest image of Mars taken from Earth on March 10, 1997.

 

June 13, 2021  Kofu, Japan – One of the presumed dangers in space travel has been that space radiation would destroy human DNA, so that pregnancies beyond Earth’s protective magnetic fields would not be viable. But nine years ago in 2012, sperm from 66 mice was freeze-dried and transferred in 2013 to the International Space Station to see what that exposure to non-stop radiation in space would do to the mammalian sperm.

Now nearly a decade later, Professor Sayaka Wakayama at the University of Yamanashi in Kofu, Japan, reports there were only minor differences between mice born from ovary eggs fertilized by the ISS radiation-exposed-sperm versus sperm that never left Earth.

Glass vials of freeze-dried mouse sperm stored on the International Space Station (ISS) for up to five years and 10 months at room temperature. After samples were returned to Earth, scientists examined the sperm for DNA damage. Image by Teruhiko Wakayama, Univ. of Yamanashi, Kofu, Japan.

 

These mice embryos were fertilized by the freeze-dried mouse sperm that scientists re-hydrated with water after the sperm came back from space. Image by Teruhiko Wakayama, University of Yamanashi, Kofu, Japan.
These mice embryos were fertilized by the freeze-dried mouse sperm that scientists re-hydrated with water after the sperm came back from space. Image by Teruhiko Wakayama, University of Yamanashi, Kofu, Japan. Click to enlarge.
Space-irradiated sperm were injected into oocytes, a procedure known as ICSI or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection. Image by Teruhiko Wakayama, Univ. of Yamanashi, Kofu, Japan. Click to enlarge.

Next, to determine how much radiation the space sperm had absorbed, the Japanese scientists used RNA sequencing to search for DNA damage to the sperm nuclei. Nothing of significance was found.

Finally came the reality check of rehydrating the sperm with water and injecting into healthy mouse ovary cells to see what condition the baby mice born from the experimental space sperm would look like.

(J)  19 pups were obtained from S6 space-preserved FD sperm from one experiment. Key for mouse strains: B6, C57BL/6N; BD, B6D2F1; BC, B6C3F1; Tg, 129B6F1 expressing GFP. (K) The results of the RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) analysis are shown as heatmaps. Photo credits: (A) Teruhiko Wakayama, (C and D) Kosuke Kazama, (F and G) Naoki Hirose, and (J) Sayaka Wakayama, University of Yamanashi.
(J)  19 mouse pups were obtained from ‘S6 space-preserved FD sperm’ from one experiment. Photo credit:  Sayaka Wakayama, Ph.D.,  University of Yamanashi, Kofu, Japan.
Baby mice born from sperm exposed to space radiation since 2012. Image credit: Teruhiko Wakayama/University of Yamanashi, Kofu, Japan.
Healthy baby mice born from sperm exposed to space radiation. Space pups that mated as adults had healthy children and grandchildren. Image credit: Teruhiko Wakayama/University of Yamanashi, Kofu, Japan.

Prof. Wakayama published in the June 11, 2021, journal Science Advances that the mouse pups born from the space sperm were healthy, with no genetic defects. In fact, the Japanese scientists projected from their published study that human sperm could be kept viable on Mars for up to 200 years.


Science Advances, June 11, 2021, “Evaluating the long-term effect of space radiation on the reproductive normality of mammalian sperm preserved on the International Space Station”:  https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/24/eabg5554


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