A Netherlands-based startup known as SpaceBorn United is embarking on an ambitious mission to make human reproduction in space not only possible but safe. The company has developed a compact in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo incubator, with plans to send it into space.
The Need for Space Reproduction
SpaceBorn United CEO Egbert Edelbroek emphasized the necessity of solving the reproduction challenge if humanity intends to establish settlements on distant planets like Mars. Conceiving and raising children in space necessitates innovative approaches, as natural conception in space is considered ethically and medically impractical due to potential risks.
Risks of Conceiving in Space
Research indicates that conceiving a child in space could pose substantial risks, including exposure to space radiation and potential structural changes in human embryos in a weightless environment. These factors highlight the need for alternative methods.
A Novel Approach to IVF
SpaceBorn has developed a prototype roughly the size of a CD-ROM that leverages microfluidic technologies to miniaturize the IVF process. This innovative device simulates Earth-like gravity through spinning and houses different chambers for sperm and eggs, enabling the complete conception process.
Insights for Earthbound IVF
While the primary goal is to revolutionize reproduction in space, SpaceBorn recognizes that studying IVF at various gravity levels in space can yield valuable insights for improving IVF treatments on Earth.
Regulatory Hurdles and Ethical Concerns
SpaceBorn faces significant regulatory hurdles and ethical considerations on its journey. International guidelines restrict the culturing of human embryos to just 14 days, making human embryo testing in space a highly controversial area of research.
Initial Testing with Mouse Cells
The company plans a series of ARTIS (assisted reproductive technology in space) missions, commencing with mouse cells over the next five years. These missions aim to address fundamental challenges before proceeding to human cells.
A Formidable Challenge
Surviving in an artificial womb on Earth is already a formidable challenge, and the complexities are magnified in a microgravity environment. SpaceBorn has initiated tests to study radiation effects on future samples sent to space.
An Ambitious Vision
SpaceBorn’s ultimate vision is to send human reproductive cells into space, fertilize them, and develop them using artificial gravity. If approved, embryos would be placed back in natural wombs on Earth for pregnancy and birth.
The Relevance of Space Reproduction
SpaceBorn believes that addressing the reproductive challenge is vital for the long-term survival of humanity in space, particularly as space tourism gains momentum. The company advocates for a comprehensive approach to space exploration that includes reproductive solutions.
A Call to Address the Reproductive Challenge
In the midst of substantial investment in space tourism, SpaceBorn United emphasizes the importance of addressing the reproductive challenge to ensure the viability of future human settlements on distant planets.
A Vision for the Future
SpaceBorn United’s bold and ambitious plan to revolutionize reproduction in space highlights the pressing need to explore innovative solutions as humanity ventures beyond Earth’s boundaries.