When we’ve well and truly demolished Planet Earth, women will abandon men, head to Mars, and rekindle the human race. Well, possibly. That’s according to a new study that found frozen sperm can stay viable in the gravitational environments it would encounter in space.
The findings were presented yesterday at the 35th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. The researchers compared frozen sperm samples exposed to microgravity conditions to those that were not and found no significant differences. According to the team, this could “open the possibility of safely transporting [sperm] to space and considering the possibility of creating a human sperm bank outside Earth.”
Some studies have previously suggested that microgravity might negatively affect sperm, for example, by lowering its motility. However, “nothing has been reported on the possible effects of gravitational differences on frozen human gametes, in which state they would be transported from Earth to space,” notes Dr Montserrat Boada of Dexeus Women’s Health in Barcelona, who presented the new findings.
Using a special plane than creates microgravity conditions for short periods of time, the researchers exposed the sperm of 10 healthy men to the different types of microgravity that would be experienced in space, and compared it to sperm kept in normal gravity conditions.
The team then examined the samples, looking at characteristics indicative of fertility like concentration, motility, vitality, and DNA fragmentation. They found no significant differences between sperm exposed to microgravity and sperm kept on the ground, suggesting that sending frozen sperm to space might one day be a possibility.
“It's not unreasonable to start thinking about the possibility of reproduction beyond the Earth,” said Dr Boeda, who now hopes to study frozen sperm that has actually been to space.
However, it’s important to note that this is a preliminary study that only tested sperm from a very small number of men, so more research is needed to confirm the results. Still, the idea of creating an extra-terrestrial sperm bank to save the human race is certainly intriguing.
The concept of humans colonizing Mars has been touted a lot recently, and whether it would actually be feasible is hotly debated. While certain companies and countries are designing and testing out special Mars habitats, we’ve still never actually made it to Mars – although NASA hopes to send astronauts there in the 2030s.
So, if humans do one day flee Earth to start a new life on the Red Planet, it won’t be anytime soon. Maybe, just maybe, taking care of our own planet would be a more logical idea.