In a groundbreaking study, Japanese researchers have successfully grown mouse embryos on the International Space Station (ISS), suggesting that mammalian reproduction in space could be possible. The team, including scientists from the University of Yamanashi’s Advanced Biotechnology Centre and the Japan Aerospace Space Agency (JAXA), sent frozen mouse embryos to the ISS in August 2021.
Astronauts thawed and cultured the embryos for four days using a specialized device. The embryos developed normally into blastocysts, the cells that form the fetus and placenta. “The experiment clearly demonstrated that gravity had no significant effect,” said the researchers, whose findings were published in the scientific journal iScience.
The study also found no significant changes in the DNA and genes of the blastocysts when analyzed back on Earth. “This is the first-ever study that shows mammals may be able to thrive in space,” said a joint statement from the University of Yamanashi and national research institute Riken.
The research has implications for future space exploration and colonization, including NASA’s Artemis program to send humans back to the moon as a stepping stone for a future Mars mission.