Chinese scientists have said they have successfully developed early-stage mouse embryos in space for the first time on a retrievable microgravity satellite set to return to Earth sometime next week. The SJ-10 research probe, launched on April 6, carried over 6,000 mouse embryos in a self-sufficient chamber the size of a microwave oven, Duan Enkui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said.
Among them, 600 embryos were put under a high-resolution camera, which took pictures every four hours for four days and sent them back to Earth, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The pictures showed the embryos developed from the 2-cell stage, an early-on embryonic cleavage stage, to blastocyst, the stage where noticeable cell differentiation occurs, around 72 hours after SJ-10’s launch, Duan said.
The timing was largely in line with embryonic development on the Earth, he added. The rest of the embryos loaded on the satellite were injected with fixatives at 72 hours after the launch for studies on the effects of space environment on embryonic development, according to Duan.
This is the first reported successful development in mammalian embryos in space in human history, the report said. Scientists will compare the retrieved embryos with samples on Earth and perform further analyses on the profiles of early embryo development in space, once SJ-10 returns home.
The re-entry capsule of China’s first retrievable microgravity satellite SJ-10 returned safely to Earth on Monday, marking a huge step forward in the Commmunist giant’s space science research. The recoverable capsule of the research probe, launched on April 6, touched down at around 4:30 pm (local time) at the planned landing area in Siziwang Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, retrievers said.
The capsule was transferred to the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), which will hand over the equipment aboard the capsule to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) for further analysis and assessment.
The re-entry capsule separated from the orbital module of the probe about 15 minutes before its landing. The latter will remain in orbit before burning away. It is the 24th retrievable satellite China has successfully recovered. The landing also marked the first time such a satellite was recovered in Siziwang Banner.
During its 12-day journey in space, 19 experiments on microgravity and life sciences were carried out on board. The experiments included one on the early developments of mouse embryos in microgravity to shed light on human reproduction in space, and another on space radiation’s effect on the genetic stability of fruit flies and rat cells.