Male mice, caged in the International Space Station for 35 days, sire healthy offspring

Sci Rep. 2019 Sep 24;9(1):13733. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-50128-w.


The effect on the reproductive system and fertility of living in a space environment remains unclear. Here, we caged 12 male mice under artificial gravity (≈1 gravity) (AG) or microgravity (MG) in the International Space Station (ISS) for 35 days, and characterized the male reproductive organs (testes, epididymides, and accessory glands) after their return to earth. Mice caged on earth during the 35 days served as a "ground" control (GC). Only a decrease in accessory gland weight was detected in AG and MG males; however, none of the reproductive organs showed any overt microscopic defects or changes in gene expression as determined by RNA-seq. The cauda epididymal spermatozoa from AG and MG mice could fertilize oocytes in vitro at comparable levels as GC males. When the fertilized eggs were transferred into pseudo-pregnant females, there was no significant difference in pups delivered (pups/transferred eggs) among GC, AG, and MG spermatozoa. In addition, the growth rates and fecundity of the obtained pups were comparable among all groups. We conclude that short-term stays in outer space do not cause overt defects in the physiological function of male reproductive organs, sperm function, and offspring viability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epididymis / physiology
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Fertilization / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Space Flight
  • Spermatozoa / physiology
  • Testis / physiology
  • Zygote / physiology