Apparently This Matters: Frozen animal sperm

Story highlights

  • Scientists in Japan have developed a new way to freeze animal sperm
  • Professor Takehito Kaneko aims to collect sperm from endangered species
  • Kaneko believes someday we can populate other planets with Earth's animals

There are a lot of things in my freezer. Animal sperm isn't one of them.

Though, to be fair, I've never actually checked the full ingredients of a Klondike Bar. And now I have concerns. There's a polar bear on the packaging.

I admit that it's an irrational new fear, but it all stems from several popular online reports this week about Japanese scientists at Kyoto University creating a very specific sperm bank for endangered species using new innovations in freeze-drying.

But, while my freezer probably doesn't contain any animal sperm, soon we might be seeing science freezers that do. Science freezers, of course, being the technical description for freezers that hold ... science.

"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.

"Steve, reach in there and grab me a vial of science."

Working with the city's zoo, Japanese researchers at Kyoto University have now successfully freeze-dried sperm from chimps, a slow loris, and a giraffe. And when it comes time to bring the little swimmers back to life, they simply have to let them thaw out in water. Like you would a frozen chicken cutlet.

But, in this case, a chunk of sperm.

I say 'chunk' because I assume they come in bricks, and if you had enough of them you could build a decent backyard Sperm-gloo in the winter.

You have your uses for frozen sperm. I have mine.

Chunks or not, the way this technology actually works is that it uses a specially developed preservative which allows the frozen future animal to be stored at a relatively high temperature that's actually just above freezing.

Really, then, this new way of doing things doesn't even require a freezer at all. You can literally put it next to your leftovers in the fridge.

Though, drunkenly grabbing the wrong Tupperware in the middle of the night could prove disastrous.

"Leftover fettuccini alfredo? Don't mind if I do!"

The current alternative is liquid nitrogen. But that requires lots of equipment and significantly more energy.

Thus, lead professor, Takehito Kaneko, has been working on this new method for over a decade, developing a way to incorporate the special buffer preservative within the freeze-drying process, all while maintaining both the sperm and its genetic information for decades at a time.

You know, to create a vintage market.

(Pro Tip: 2013 was a good year for walrus.)

And now that Kaneko and his fellow scientists seem to have this system down, they're gearing up an endangered species sperm bank so that we can more efficiently confuse and aggravate an already pissed-off planet.

"Look, y'all, I'm tired of giant pandas. Get these weirdos off of me!"

"Shut up, Earth. They make good web videos."

But never mind this tragic little home in the solar system, the Kyoto scientists are even thinking about colonizing other planets with some of our rarest species. Because, you know, what Mars really needs is a lemur.

You're welcome.

Professor Kaneko has only experimented with animals, and admits that he's unaware of any human application for this technology. But that's probably a good thing. Because when we do finally decide to create a whole new ecosystem in space, it's probably far better off with turtles and sloths.

Humans would just stand around twerking giant space rocks and Instagramming it back to everyone waiting on the mothership. Because then -- and only then -- will we know the Red Planet is officially ours.

At least I'm pretty sure that's how we'll claim everything in the future.

"Welcome to CarMax. I see you like the silver Honda."

Now, as Kaneko's endangered animal sperm bank moves forward, he's keen to get his hands on a bunch of larger animals that are at risk. Like elephants and tigers and rhinos. The zoo has 132 different species for him to choose from, so that's a lot of de-sperminizing.

And it's only half the battle -- the next step in the process is figuring out a way to use this new technology to freeze-dry the female's eggs as well.

So, who knows when we'll eventually get to beam our weirdest little creatures into the cosmos. But when we do, I assure you it will be delightfully unnecessary.

You're welcome.

Follow Jarrett Bellini on Twitter.

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