Will frozen sperm colonise space? Scientists confirm the viability of a human sperm bank in outer space

An image to illustrate frozen sperm for possible space colonisation
© iStock/bischy

Scientists have tested human sperm samples to find that they are viable in outer space and the possibility of a “human sperm bank outside Earth” is open.

Presented in Vienna, the findings showed that a range of frozen sperm samples which were exposed to microgravity conditions retained their complete viability. According to the researchers this means “open[s] the possibility of safely transporting male gametes to space and considering the possibility of creating a human sperm bank outside Earth.”

The research was a collaboration between the research team of Dr Montserrat Vienna from Dexeus Women’s Health in Barcelona, microgravity engineers from the Polytechnic University of Barcelona, and the Aeroclub Barcelona-Sabadell of Spain which was responsible for the parabolic flights to replicate microgravity conditions.

The viability of the sperm

Boada said that, of the frozen sperm samples they tested, there was:

  • 100 percent concordance in DNA fragmentation rate and vitality;
  • 90 percent concordance in sperm concentration and motility; and
  • These differences “were more probably related to heterogeneity of the sperm sample than to the effect of exposure to different gravity conditions.”

The concept of space colonisation

“Zillionaires like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who see the ‘colonisation’ of space as an answer to the Earth’s ever threatened resources will be reassured to learn that human sperm retains its complete viability within the different gravitational conditions found in outer space”, according to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

Reproduction beyond Earth

Boada explained that her research group will validate the results before studying larger sperm samples, longer periods of microgravity, and eventually, fresh sperm.

Boada concluded: “If the number of space missions increases in the coming years, and are of longer duration, it is important to study the effects of long-term human exposure to space in order to face them. It’s not unreasonable to start thinking about the possibility of reproduction beyond the Earth.”

Source: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology

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