POST TIME: 24 June, 2019 12:24:15 PM
Mars colonisation possible through sperm bank in space, study suggests
Scientists find frozen sperm exposed to zero-g could go where no man has gone before
Independent Online/ The Guardian

Mars colonisation possible through sperm bank in space, study suggests

All-female astronaut crews could reproduce in space without the help of accompanying men, new research suggests.

The study found that frozen samples of sperm exposed to microgravity retained similar characteristics to sperm samples kept on the ground, raising hopes that a sperm bank could one day be set up in space to help populate new worlds.

This could prove interesting for female astronauts, amid reports that future missions to Mars may involve women-only space crews.

Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut, said at a conference in 2017 that there had been an unreleased Nasa report exploring sexual desires of space crew members during potential missions to Mars. Sharman said the report had recommended space crews of the same gender – “all men or all women” – because they have better team cohesion.

Findings from the small preliminary study, involving sperm from 10 healthy donors, suggest that “the possibility of creating a human sperm bank outside of Earth” exists, according to the researchers.

The study was presented on Sunday at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual meeting in Vienna, Austria.

Montserrat Boada, from Dexeus Women’s Health in Barcelona, who presented the research along with her colleagues, said: “Some studies suggest a significant decrease in the motility of a human, fresh sperm sample. But nothing has been reported on the possible effects of gravitational differences on frozen human gametes, in which state they could be transported from Earth to space.”One group of sperm samples used in the study had been exposed to microgravity with the help of a small aerobatic aircraft. The samples then underwent fertility screenings and were analysed for concentration, motility and DNA fragmentation.

No significant differences were detected between samples that had been given a ride and those that had stayed on the ground.

The researchers said that further work was needed to fully understand the effect of space conditions, such as different levels of gravity, and that sperm would have to be exposed to space-like conditions for longer periods of time.

“Our best option will be to perform the experiment using real spaceflight but access is very limited,” Boada said.