Frozen semen is still viable in conditions of microgravity, meaning humans may be able to reproduce in space, a team of scientists said Monday.
The investigation is the first part of a wider project that will determine the viability of creating reproductive cells banks in space and to "reproduce the human species beyond the planet," Montserrat Boada, lead scientist of the project, told Efe.
Various studies had already revealed how a lack of gravity affects the structure of cells and molecules, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, nervous and endocrine systems in the human body.
But the impact of a micro-g environment on "germ cells such as spermatozoids or ovum, and on human reproduction is not known in detail," said Boada.
For this reason, researchers at the center for reproductions Dexeus Mujer in Barcelona and engineers at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) analyzed whether being exposed to conditions of microgravity similar to those found in space affected a set of frozen sperm samples.
The findings revealed that weightlessness did not affect the viability of frozen human sperm.
"The concentration, mobility, vitality and fragmentation of its DNA was not altered in any of these tests when compared to its properties in conditions of gravity on Earth," Boada told Efe.
"Last year NASA announced a similar study called Micro-11 which investigates the effects of microgravity on the International Space Station, but it is yet to publish the obtained results," Boada continued.
"This is the first study on the effects of microgravity on samples of frozen human sperm," she added.
When asked how humans would reproduce in space in the future, the expert suggested that perhaps the most common technique would be assisted reproduction.
"The study aimed to prove that frozen sperm could be transported from the Earth into space, but we would then have to see if it would then fertilize correctly, if implantation would be possible and if a viable pregnancy could happen," the expert continued.
"This is the first step of a larger project which is to know what reproductive capabilities we would have beyond Earth," Boada concluded.
The findings of the investigation will be presented at the 35th edition of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology this week in Vienna. EFE-EPA