Whether or not you think that certain endangered animals are worth all the fuss -- *cough*pandas*cough* -- judging by the internet's recent, excited tittering over a potential panda pregnancy, the majority of people are very much pro-animal kingdom diversity. So much so, in fact, that a team of Japanese scientists has begun freeze-drying certain endangered animals' sperm in the hopes of one day bringing them with us to other planets.
So far, the team at Kyoto University's Institute of Laboratory Animals Graduate School of Medicine has successfully preserved the sperm of two different endangered primates and a species of giraffe. This sperm is being stored for a very, very long haul, though, and if this stuff really is going to last until we're ready to blast off, it needs to be incredibly stable. To solve this problem, Takehito Kaneko, an associate professor working on the study, mixed the animals' baby juice with a special preservative before freeze-drying the mixture, allowing it to safely exist at a cool -- but still much warmer than other methods would require -- 4C.
Before any of this could begin though, the researchers tested the process on sperm samples from rats and mice to fantastic results -- they were still able to prove the full viability of the rats' little swimmers five years later. As Kaneko told Agence France-Press:
In this way, scientists will be able to obtain genetic information more easily, which means we could help to preserve endangered animal species. This may sound like a dream, but we could in future take genetic information into space. Now we have to use fresh eggs or those frozen conventionally, but we are studying methods to freeze-dry eggs as well.
Better still, the sperm would even be able to survive if storage lab suffered a power failure -- assuming the outage only lasted a short period of time, of course. As of now, though, all we really have is a whole lot of giraffe sperm and nothing to do with it. The real magic won't come until we figure out how to apply similar techniques to the animals' eggs. And when that happens, who knows -- one day, your great-grandchild might wake up every Martian morning only to hitch a ride to school on the nearest roaming space panda. [AFP via Design Taxi]