Astronauts planning to have an out-of-this-world reproductive experience, take note! Experiments conducted on zebrafish suggest that space travel could harm your unborn child. (via The New Scientist)
Tamara Franz-Odenaal and her team of biologists at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Canada placed fertilized zebrafish eggs inside a bioreactor. It mimicked microgravity—the state of very low gravity found in interstellar space—by spinning ridiculously fast. They placed eggs inside the machine 10 to 14 hours after they had been fertilized to coincide with the development of bone and cartilage in the skull.
Once the eggs hatched, the team dyed the baby fish blue, and compared them to fish that hadn’t spent time in simulated microgravity. The experimental group of zebra fishies had altered branchial arches—segments of cartilage that support the gills and correspond to portions of the human jaw. Deficits appeared later in the fishes’ life cycles, too. Within several months, the bone at the base of their skulls buckled.
Taken with previous research, it doesn’t bode well for sex in space. Other research has found that zebrafish in bioreactors have deficits in their vestibular systems, which control balance, causing fish to die prematurely. And after traveling aboard NASA’s STS-131 mission in 2010, 16 mice demonstrated shrunken ovaries, leading one scientist to say their reproductive systems “had shut down.”
Looks like the wild thing is best done in the safety of Earth’s atmosphere.