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Chinese scientists said that they have successfully developed early-stage mouse embryos in space for the first time on a retrievable microgravity satellite set to return to Earth next week.

embryos in space

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 on Sunday.

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, the People’s Daily reported.

The pictures showed that 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 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.

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.