In a statement released today, Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh and SpaceX Crew-1 have confirmed that Eyvazzadeh will be joining NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi for an upcoming commercial spaceflight bound for the international Space Station in summer of 2021. In partnership with SpaceX and Proov Test, Eyvazzadeh (known as Dr. Aimee on her website and social media) will begin treatments that will eventually lead to the first successful IVF cycle in space, tentatively scheduled for 2023.
“This first trip is truly exciting because reproductive technology has reached a point where we can start to do testing on the endometrium, and uterine lining with the Endochip and other “organ on a chip” technologies. These are microfluidic devices lined with living human cells that are used for drug development, disease modeling, and personalized medicine. I’ll be up in space with the SpaceX team, both as their doctor, and to begin to see what we can learn about our own reproductive systems outside of the Earth’s orbit. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience,” shared Eyvazzadeh in an interview.
In recent years, “organ on a chip” technology created by Dr. Kevin Osteen has become an increasingly important way for scientists to test drugs and better understand disease. Made of plastic polymers, these tiny chips (about the size of a thumb drive for a personal computer) provide a window into the inner workings of the systems within a human body. And, because they are so small, they are extremely portable, making them a great choice for use in places where laboratory space is limited.
Over the next two years, Eyvazzadeh will make several subsequent trips to the Space Station, to continue testing. Eventually, she will select a patient to accompany her on a future SpaceX flight to take part in the first IVF in space.
Here’s a short excerpt from our interview:
Luke Rogers: What made this trip possible, from a technological point of view?
Dr. Aimee: We’re really lucky that technology has come so far. With commercial space travel becoming possible, it also means we can begin medical testing in space. I love that there are countless opportunities to learn more about fertility in space, and I feel it’s time to try to do procedures in space, too. I’m so lucky that my sister Dr. Johnica Eyvazzadeh was chosen to lead the anesthesia team on this project.
One of the things I’ll be starting with is what the medical profession calls “organs on a chip.” They’ve been used to study the human body and disease quite a bit in recent years. In preparation for this first flight, I’ve been able to work alongside Dr. Kevin Osteen. He has developed an “ovary on a chip.” I’ll be taking some with me to the space station along with many sperm samples. This first trip will be to determine feasibility, and eventually we will invite a patient to join me to perform the first IVF in space, in 2023.
Luke Rogers: What makes this so important, now?
Dr. Aimee: It’s well documented that we’re seeing a lot of changes in fertility rates. Sperm rates have dropped 50% over the past 50 years. More and more people are seeking fertility help. We can’t ignore that we need to better understand all of the elements that are going on with these issues. As a fertility doctor, it’s my mission to head to space to save the human race.
And, SpaceX sees that they have a role in this, and it’s one that can help us now, and gives us a lot to work with for the future. If we’re going to be travelling to other planets, we need to know that we can reproduce on those planets. What if conventional means don’t work due to gravity, or UV exposure? Let’s learn as much as we can now, before we get to another planet so we can have as much information as possible to work with.
Luke Rogers: How did this partnership come about?
Dr. Aimee: I met Elon Musk about three years ago, in fact, it was two years ago today that we launched our Tesla Testicular Temperature Tracking System (T4). He’s very data driven, as you can imagine, and he also wants to make things better for humanity wherever and however he can. He felt it was important to address the rising number of issues people have in growing a family, both for us now, and for humanity as we move ahead with space travel.
“SpaceX is just two letters away from SpaceSex, so it should be a part of the mission.”– Elon Musk
It really was a no brainer, because as he said to me during that first meeting, “SpaceX is just two letters away from SpaceSex, so it should be a part of the mission.” All joking aside, he’s always looking for new ways to solve problems and wanted fertility preservation to be part of this early phase of the flights.
Luke Rogers: How long will you be gone, and what does your family think of this?
Dr. Aimee: The first expedition will be for two weeks on the Space Station. I’m excited and kind of nervous about going. My husband is very supportive and my kids cried really hard when I said I’d be gone. But then they got excited. Not many kids have moms that get to go into outer space.
Eyvazzadeh will be heading to space with the Dragon cargo spacecraft this summer. The ship will be carrying several tons of supplies and the first set of new solar arrays to the space station.