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Mice in space and kept in artificial gravity experience no harm to reproduction

The uncertainty of science: Male mice who spent thirty-five days on ISS but within a centrifuge that created 1 g of artificial gravity apparently experienced no damage to their ability to reproduce.

This project team developed a habitat cage unit (HCU) capable of being installed in the Centrifuge-equipped Biological Experiment Facility (CBEF) on the ISS. The mice were placed under artificial gravity or microgravity (by centrifugation). After their return to Earth, they were compared with a “ground control” raised on the ground for the same 35-day period. (Fig.1)

The joint team found that: [1] The sperm production ability and the sperm fertilizing ability of the mice returned to Earth were normal, compared to the ground control and, [2] offspring of the mice sent to outer space was healthy and there were no effects on their reproduction ability from their parents’ stay in outer space.

While this study suggests that some form of artificial gravity can possible mitigate some of the risks to reproduction in space, there are so many unknowns that it at this point it leaves more questions than it answers.

  • Would an artificial gravity less than 1 g accomplish the same thing?
  • Would no gravity cause damage? According to the study, this is not yet known.
  • What about insemination? Would it proceed with no problems in space?
  • What about female reproduction? Will artificial gravity mitigate issues for them?

I could go on. I almost wish they had done this experiment first in zero gravity, to see its effects, before proceeding to an artificial gravity environment.

Nonetheless, these results do suggest that reproduction in space will be possible, as long as an artificial gravity of some kind is provided.

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