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Japanese scientists mailed dried mouse sperm

Japanese scientists from Yamanashi University have invented a new way to store mammalian sperm samples by drying them at low temperatures to create undemanding samples that remain fertile even after normal mailing. The researchers reported more about this in an article in the journal iScience.

Scientists sometimes have to send sperm from laboratory animals over long distances, including into space — for example, to bring mice to space stations and study how the mammals are affected by cosmic radiation. But the vials in which sperm is usually sent are fragile and unreliable, and because of their storage, they allow only small amounts of biomaterial to be sent.

Earlier, in search of a more effective method of preservation, researchers resorted to lyophilization — a method in which the substance is frozen and then placed in a vacuum chamber. This is how, for example, soluble coffee and dried plasma from donor blood are obtained. The best basis for storage was weighing paper, which differs from the usual paper with a smooth surface due to the fibers pointing in one direction. It proved to be the easiest to handle, and the sperm recovered from it yielded the highest percentage of offspring. Experiments showed that the biomaterial in this form could be successfully sent to the ISS, stored there, and used.

To check how lyophilized sperm would survive more “earthly” conditions and situations, such as travel, the scientists mailed postcards to each other, attaching samples of the biomaterial to them. It turned out that even after traveling, the sperm was in good enough condition to produce offspring.

The researchers expect that the new approach will greatly expand the ability to store and transport mouse and other mammalian sperm samples for experiments. In the future, they also plan to find out how long samples can be stored at room temperature.

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