When it comes to populating deep space, “we want to learn the rules of the road” by studying the effects of space radiation and other factors on male and female fertility, according to Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD, the Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the vice chair of research for the department of obstetrics and gynecology, and the chief of the division of reproductive science and medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago, who is chairing a session on March 17 at the 2018 Endocrine Society annual meeting entitled: “Mission to Mars.”

The project was developed based on the anticipation that “we will continue to explore space as an inhabitable frontier.” The talks in this session will examine endocrine-based reproduction such as sperm function and biologic fertilization that has occurred in space, noted Dr. Woodruff , who is also professor of molecular biosciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of biomedical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering, both at Northwestern University.

Dr. Woodruff currently has a grant under review by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that is relevant to the mission of populating space. “If we are going to populate space, which we will need to do based on the length of time we will be there, we are going to have to get gametes into space,” she said. There will be more and more research effort focused on the needs of the humans who are “non-Earth dwelling,” she said.

The next step might be to study embryo development in that environment. Such research would take place at the International Space Station.

“I am interested in endocrine disruptors. What we learn from the study of the challenges to reproduction in space we will be able to apply on earth,” Dr. Woodruff said.