After creating over a hundred ‘Space Pups,’ researchers believe they could store sperm DNA for more than 200 years in space. That’s what a new study by biologist Teruhiko Wakayama of the University of Yamanashi in Kōfu, Japan, and colleagues in Science Advances suggests.
These conclusions result from studying freeze-dried mouse sperm stored on the International Space Station (ISS) for almost six years. As such, the researchers conducted the longest biological experiment on the ISS to date.
In one experiment, the researchers bombarded the samples with supplemental X-ray radiation, but the sperm remained viable. As a result, they predicted the sample might last up to two centuries in space.
Previous studies showed several species of fish, amphibians, birds, and sea urchins could reproduce despite microgravity in space. Now, the new study suggests that cosmic radiation may not prevent mammals like mice from having babies.
“That may be good news for future spacefarers. Scientists have worried that chronic exposure to space radiation might not only put astronauts at risk for cancer and other diseases, but also create mutations in their DNA that could be passed down to future generations (SN: 9/25/20). The new results hint that deep-space travelers could safely bear children,” wrote Maria Temming for Science News.
Until now, scientists believed space radiation would certainly harm DNA, creating mutations passed down to future generations. Now, it appears that may not necessarily be true. Thus, it’s a possible indication that future generations of deep space explorers may be able to colonize outer space.
240 Healthy ‘Space Pups’ From Space DNA
After astronauts brought the samples back to Earth, scientists produced baby mice they dubbed “Space Pups.”
After rehydrating the sperm, they injected them into fresh mouse eggs, which they implanted into female mice. All in all, 240 Space Pups were born.
“The space radiation did not affect sperm DNA or fertility after preservation on ISS, and many genetically normal offspring were obtained without reducing the success rate compared to the ground-preserved control. The results of ground x-ray experiments showed that sperm can be stored for more than 200 years in space,” states the study abstract.
Although their DNA came from space, the Space Pups grew and had their own healthy babies.
More Evidence for Panspermia?
Moreover, the study seems to reinforce the concept of panspermia further. According to the unproven theory, life was seeded from microscopic life forms inside meteorites (perhaps from Mars), which arrived on the planet millions of years ago. Once the lifeforms arrive on distant planets, they spark the evolution of other lifeforms.
Possibly, humanity may have already “contaminated Mars” with life from Earth, but the reverse may also hold true. Thus, life on Earth may have originated long ago on a once habitable Mars.
Alternatively, perhaps interstellar spacecraft from alien civilization seeded life on Earth? Although it sounds unlikely, it’s possible.
Previous studies on the ISS called the Tanpopo (dandelion in English) mission estimated that bacteria could survive at least eight years in space. Thus, it indicates bacteria could survive traveling for a distance between Earth and Mars.
Perhaps, interstellar or galactic panspermia is possible across vast distances.
Noah’s Ark of DNA
Although the study looks promising for future space travel, it may not show the full picture. For example, on the ISS, Earth’s magnetic provides some protection from cosmic radiation. Furthermore, freeze-drying may have allowed the mouse sperm to withstand conditions in space.
Therefore, the researchers say transporting stored DNA samples aboard spaceships would be safer and more cost-effective than live animals. So, it sounds like one day there might be a kind of Noah’s Ark carrying a collection of dried DNA samples.
According to Ancient Astronaut theorists, this is what the biblical story may have actually described. Interesting, there have long been plans to take a DNA library, a Noah’s Ark of sorts, to the Moon.
In 2019, a “Lunar Library,” which planned to contain synthetic DNA storage, crashed on the Moon. There, it might remain intact and contains human DNA samples and thousands of dehydrated microscopic animals called tardigrades (water bears). Thus, Earth may have seeded life, although dormant, on the Moon.
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