This might be an easy question to answer. I just don’t know enough about biology. Let’s say as a hypothetical that we wanted to save the sperm and eggs of most of the people on the planet as a long term repository to rebuild a population on another planet and we wanted to give everyone who wanted to participate the chance to contribute either sperm or eggs to this effort. We won’t talk about vetting or culling out those with perhaps undesirable traits or what that would entail, just going to gather all of the sperm and eggs from everyone who wants to participate (let’s say 5 billion people want to, as a nice round number) and store it so it would be viable for, say, 200 years. Is this possible? If so, what would it take storage and equipment wise? Could it be done digitally, i.e. could you sequence the sperm or eggs and, down the road rebuild or clone them somehow, or would you have to physically store each?
Here’s the fee schedule for the first cryo-storage company that came up when I googled “how much to store sperm”.
Looks like $240/year to store samples, if you buy the 10-year plan.
Of course, they’re making a profit at that, and currently cryo-storage of sperm is a pretty small niche. If we were storing material from everyone, there would be some economies of scale. Likely a factor of ten or more? You can probably also skimp on reliability. If your individual client that’s paying you thousands of dollars loses their sperm, they’re going to be pissed and you’re going to get sued and better show that you took reasonable precautions. If you’re trying to store a seed-bank for humanity and 50% of it survives, good enough, right?
On the other (more expensive) hand, the timeline might be much longer. I can’t imagine most people have any purpose in storing sperm for more than a decade or two for personal use. How long do you plan to store this stuff?
For eggs, I think you have to add in the difficulty of extraction. There are hormone treatments and an in-patient visit to get the eggs out. It’s a somewhat invasive process. By contrast, the sperm extraction process is quick and easy, and requires no medically trained attendants (unless you’re into that).
The technology has gotten better, but I think that the freezing of eggs remains considerably less successful than the freezing of sperm or of embryos.
Each sample could be stored in a small glass vial of, say, 2 x 2 x 3cm = 12cm[sup]3[/sup]. That size would be large enough to hold a metric crapload of sperm or egg cells per person. They’d also be large enough to handle using naked eyes and hands and have a barcode & human readable label; no need for fancy expensive micro-sized handling tools. For sure we could use much smaller vials, but I deliberately chose something kinda bulky just to see how big the worst case storage requirement would be.
If we collected 5E9 samples that’d be 60E9cm[sup]3[/sup] of little bottles. Which is 6E4m[sup]3[/sup] of volume. Or a cube 39 meters ~=128 feet on a side. IOW, any ordinary cold storage warehouse in any grocery distribution center is plenty big enough. Even if we triple the space requirement to allow for the space needed for cooling air circulation between vials, storage racks, etc., the volume required is trivial on a local, much less regional, national, or global scale.
Modern standard 40 foot ocean shipping containers are ~77m[sup]3[/sup] each. Tripling for air & rack space as above we’d need ~2300 of them to hold the lot. Modern container ships can carry 5+ thousand of those at a time. So figure half a boatload for the whole lot.
So from a volume or thermal management perspective this is trivially easy on land, or even aboard an ocean-going ship. It’d be hard on a spaceship, but not as hard as building the rest of the interplanetary or interstellar vehicle.
I know diddly about viability so I can’t comment on that.
Other than personal vanity, there is no need to preserve sperm and eggs from everyone in order to recreate our full current genetic diversity. A few tens of thousands of randomly selected people from across the world would come close enough.
But if Earth is Doomed, one of the plot devices to keep the proles calm is to tell them that they’ll all get to have sperm/eggs on the Ark. Instead of the secret reality that all the collected samples will be pitched before the Ark leaves with only the ruling families’ = 0.001% genes on board.
Also, you’ll send up Neil DeGrasse Tyson. And submarine crews will evolve into walruses.
And the color red is still associated with the crazy anti-intellectual party.
Let’s avoid political jabs in General Questions. No warning issued, but don’t do this again.
General Questions Moderator
12cc?? “You’re not leaving until you fill that thing up!”