BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Chinese scientists have managed to develop mouse embryos in space, thus making the first step of mankind towards colonizing other planets. As some early-stage embryos successfully evolved into balls of cells, this suggests that mammals could reproduce in space.
Scientists have previously feared that embryos require gravity in order to develop correctly, and their cells to organize in the right way. However, it seems this might not be the case. A team from China has sent early-stage embryos of mice into space on the SJ-10 space probe at the beginning of April. The embryos were safely housed in a retrievable capsule. After spending several days in space, the probe returned to Earth and thus the scientists were able to analyze the evolution of the embryos.
It appears that some of them managed to evolve into blastocysts, which are balls of cells. This is a key moment when the embryo can finally be planted inside the womb. Exposing these embryos to microgravity is a crucial step in the long process of colonizing other celestial worlds.
Space agencies have previously conducted experiments during which they exposed embryos to the space environment before implanting them in surrogate mice on Earth. Unfortunately, these attempts were hampered by various biological factors.
Back in 1996, astronauts from NASA tried to grow mouse embryos on the Columbia space shuttle. However, those that were exposed to microgravity simply stopped growing during a crucial stage, when the central axis is founded in the middle to guide cells as they also evolve and thus become important parts of the body.
These experiments led scientists to believe that gravity is needed for the development of the central axis. However, the Chinese team has managed to overcome previous issues and thus to develop embryos to blastocysts.
According to Professor Dan Enkui, lead researcher of the experiment from the Chinese Academy of Sciences,
“The human race may still have a long way to go before we can colonize space. But before that, we have to figure out whether it is possible for us to survive and reproduce in the outer space environment like we do on Earth. Now, we finally proved that the most crucial step in our reproduction – the early embryo development – is possible in the outer space.”
It seems human thirst for exploration can no longer be contained to our planet, so over the next decades or centuries, humans will surely populate other worlds.
Image Source: Wikipedia