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Fertility and Faraway Worlds: Would Living In Outer Space Affect Our Reproductive Abilities?

June 30, 2020
Kylie Manuppelli

A joint research project conducted by Osaka University and the University of Tsukuba involved raising male mice in outer space, then studying their reproductive abilities after safely returning. They were able to learn more about the effect that the environment in outer space has on male fertility and contribute this knowledge in order to inform a potential expansion of human activity into space. In this article, we’ll break down the important findings of this research project and answer the following questions: 

  • What effect did being raised in space have on the fertility of the male mice?
  • Did the offspring of the mice raised in space experience effects on fertility?
  • How do the findings of this research apply to us as humans?

What Effect Did Being Raised In Space Have On the Fertility Of the Male Mice?

In this recent study, the researchers wanted to see how the outer space environment would affect the fertility of male mice who were raised there for 35 days, in comparison to a control group of mice raised for the same period of time on Earth. We do know that the human body can be affected by changes in gravity, radiation exposure, as well as psychological stress when spending time in space. Thus, the researchers developed special cages that could safely house the mice and allow them to study the effect that space would have on the reproductive organs and fertility.

This research thus published the first findings that male reproductive ability was retained after sending mice to outer space. The researchers compared the animals’ ability to produce sperm and found that the sperm production was not significantly different between the group from space and the group raised on Earth. They also found that compared to the control group, the sperm fertilizing ability of the mice raised in space was also normal. 

Did the Offspring Of the Mice Raised In Space Experience Effects On Fertility?

Not only did the researchers want to investigate the effect that living in outer space would have on the reproductive abilities of the mice in the experimental group, but they also wanted to trace the effects to the offspring of the mice to see if there were any effects that were passed on. They found that the mice who were sent to outer space produced healthy offspring. Even more impressive was that these offspring also had normal reproductive abilities that were not affected by their parents’ stay in space.  

The image displays another planet in outer space, where we could potentially live if we continue to learn about how space affects our reproductive abilities.
Male mice raised in space, as well as their offspring, experienced no effects on their reproductive abilities compared to mice raised on Earth. 

How Do the Findings Of This Research Apply To Us As Humans?

As technology continues to advance, the time where people can easily visit outer space is not exactly far away. In fact, other research has already found that human sperm can survive in outer space. With growing knowledge from fertility studies involving outer space, we can continue to learn more about our abilities to potentially live and reproduce in space. 

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