In a groundbreaking discovery, Japanese scientists have produced mouse embryos in space for the first time aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
According to The Japan News, the University of Yamanashi team successfully fertilized a mouse egg and created a blastocyst in the orbiting lab.
The stage known as the blastocyst is defined as the initial differentiation of cells into the inner cell mass, which gives rise to the foetus, and the trophectoderm, which gives rise to the placenta.
The study, which was published online in the journal iScience, showed that 720 frozen two-cell mouse embryos were transported to the International Space Station (ISS) by means of a tool that the scientists created that also made it simple for astronauts to handle early mouse embryos.
For four days, the researchers froze and cultivated the embryos.
360 of the embryos were grown in the Japanese Kibo experiment module using a machine that produced 1G of gravity, which is the same as the gravitational field experienced on Earth. The remaining 360 were raised in an environment with no gravity.
After being preserved in formalin, the embryos were returned to Earth to be compared with those from an analogous experiment.
According to the paper, more than 60% of the embryos from the Earth test became blastocysts, compared to 29.5% of the embryos from the 1G space test and 23.6% from the zero-gravity test.
According to Teruhiko Wakayama, a professor at the university, “we found that even under zero-gravity conditions, embryos develop normally until they reach the blastocyst stage,” as reported by The Japan News.
“With regard to mammals, we must investigate if they will successfully implant and develop,” Wakayama continued.
The experiment discovered that blastocysts formed under zero gravity did not vary from those in other environments in terms of differentiations, the rate of DNA damage, or gene expressions.
Additionally, the study discovered that, in three of the twelve blastocysts from the zero-gravity test that were thoroughly investigated, the inner cell mass cells aggregated in two locations rather than the typical one.
According to the findings, these blastocysts may mature into identical monozygotic twins.