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PLoS One. 2009 Aug 25;4(8):e6753. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006753.

Detrimental effects of microgravity on mouse preimplantation development in vitro.

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  • 1Laboratory for Genomic Reprogramming, RIKEN, Center for Developmental Biology, Kobe, Japan.


Sustaining life beyond Earth either on space stations or on other planets will require a clear understanding of how the space environment affects key phases of mammalian reproduction. However, because of the difficulty of doing such experiments in mammals, most studies of reproduction in space have been carried out with other taxa, such as sea urchins, fish, amphibians or birds. Here, we studied the possibility of mammalian fertilization and preimplantation development under microgravity (microG) conditions using a three-dimensional (3D) clinostat, which faithfully simulates 10(-3) G using 3D rotation. Fertilization occurred normally in vitro under microG. However, although we obtained 75 healthy offspring from microG-fertilized and -cultured embryos after transfer to recipient females, the birth rate was lower than among the 1G controls. Immunostaining demonstrated that in vitro culture under microG caused slower development and fewer trophectoderm cells than in 1G controls but did not affect polarization of the blastocyst. These results suggest for the first time that fertilization can occur normally under microG environment in a mammal, but normal preimplantation embryo development might require 1G.

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