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Sex In Space: University Of Montreal Study Suggests Risks In Zero-Gravity Conception

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File photo.
File photo.

The mile-high club apparently no longer excites us. So we're looking to aim higher -- literally.

As rumors swirl that astronauts are doing the deed, sex in space may be shifting from a steamy science-fiction fantasy to an actual possibility.

Now, scientists are studying what could happen if a baby was conceived in minimal-gravity conditions.

A University of Montreal study, published Wednesday on PLOS ONE Journal, suggests that low-gravity conditions can potentially cripple cell development.

To reach these results, biologists looked at how plants reproduced in low-gravity conditions. Doing so could lend insight into how cellular growth processes occurring during embryo development would operate in outer space.

What they found was this: the plants' intracellular transport -- a key process in cell development -- experienced "traffic jams." Therefore, low gravity ultimately hampered cell growth.

That sounds harmless -- who needs a garden in space, anyway? -- but it's not.

Plant sperm cells are transferred to an egg in a way that's similar to human reproduction, according to Medical Daily. That means that if plant cells had difficulty developing, a human fetus may also struggle.

However, Dr. Anja Geitmann, one of the study's authors, stressed to The Huffington Post that the findings do not mean that the actual act of human sex in space would cause problems. Rather, it's the development of the fetus that might be jeopardized.

"Our findings offer new insight into how life evolved on Earth and are significant with regards to human health," Geitmann told HuffPost. "'Traffic jams' on these intracellular highways also exist in human cells where they are known to be involved in illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's." This, she clarifies, is not the same as saying "sex in space causes cancer and Alzheimer's."

The obvious solution, of course, is to not have sex in space. But that might not be an option.

Astronauts spend a lot of time together in close quarters. It takes an estimated eight months, for example, just to get to Mars, according to NASA.

With that in mind, sex in space may already be happening. Lee Speigel, HuffPost Weird News reporter and paranormal expert, delved into this subject in 2011. He noted that NASA doesn't have an official policy regarding sex in space. Astronauts are instead expected to maintain "a constant commitment to honorable behavior."

As space travel progresses, NASA may be forced to re-examine that policy.

Therefore, research on space sex's consequences is important, according to Laura Woodmansee, author of "Sex In Space," because, without it, to conceive a baby in outer space would be unethical.

"To put it simply, we need to know exactly what we're getting into," she wrote on LiveScience, "because the consequences affect not only us, but the next generation of human beings."

Hat tip: Smithsonian Magazine

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