If we as a civilization packed a disgusting amount of freeze-dried human semen into gigantic tubes and buried them beneath the moon’s surface, could we later use those swimmers to repopulate the world should an zombie apocalypse, asteroid or nuclear war turn our world to shit? It’s possible.
This theory has just been tested by a team of scientists from the University of Yamanashi in Japan, who managed to successfully breed baby mice from sperm that had been frozen in zero gravity while aboard the International Space Station, where radiation is 100 times stronger than on Earth.
Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the experiment, as with most experiments involving mice, was a preliminary test on whether human sperm might behave similarly in the same conditions.
The sperm used in the experiment was stored on the ISS for nine months before it returned to earth. Upon arrival, researchers thawed the samples at room temperature and then used it to successfully inseminate a female mouse.
The next of kin, or “space pups” as they’ve been coined, were born healthy and similar to “ground control” mice, though they did have minor differences in the genetic code, otherwise known as mutations.
Some damage to the sperm’s DNA did occur, however. “If the DNA damage occurring during long-term preservation is found to have a significant effect on offspring, we will need to develop methods to protect sperm samples against space radiation, such as an ice shield,” researchers wrote, noting that the longer the sperms spends in space, the more severely damaged the DNA becomes.
Past research has showed that fish eggs can also be fertilized and develop normally during a 15-day orbital flight, meaning its protein too could become a valued resource if we end up living in space like Jedi.
Despite the success of this mice experiment, researchers are still uncertain whether human sperm could survive in space. For optimal protection, they say our little guys would have the best chance if they were preserved under the moon’s surface.
“Underground storage on the moon, such as in lava tubes, could be among the best places for prolonged or permanent sperm preservation because of their very low temperatures, protection from space radiation by thick bedrock layers, and complete isolation from any disasters on Earth,” researchers said.
Since the ISS is a protected environment, it’s protected from radiation, whereas on the moon, it isn’t. “Ovaries and testes are the most sensitive organs to both acute and chronic radiation exposure,” Prof Joseph Tash, a Nasa-supported physiologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center says. He posits that the creation of “radiation-hardened” facilities similar to the ISS could protect the sperm, eggs and embryos from damage.
“Given the nine month gestation for humans, the pregnant mother would also need to be protected by such a facility,” Tash adds. “So it presents very real habitat, medical, social, and psychological questions that need to be addressed as well.”
If prep-work for humans living in space isn’t evidence that the future is nigh, I honestly don’t know what to tell you.
By the way, Kurt Vonnegut predicted this back in 1980.