Friday, October 28, 2016

Motherless Babies

                 What comes first, the chicken or the egg? If some scientists have their way, the answer might definitively be the chicken…or the baby. In a landmark experiment by the University of Bath, scientists have recently discovered a method of creating offspring without the need for a female’s egg. This “advance” could pave the way for a baby to be born from the DNA of two men.
                Great, government policy has previously rendered fathers moot, and now science may be able to do likewise to mothers!
                Cue “Ode to Joy!”
                Conventional wisdom heretofore thought that only a female egg could spark the changes in a sperm required to make a baby, as an egg forms from a special type of cell division in which only half the number of chromosomes are carried over. Sperm cells form in the same way, so that when a sperm and an egg meet they form a full genetic quota, with half our DNA coming from our mother and half from our father.
                But this new experiment has proven that embryos can be created from cells which carry all their chromosomes, which in turn means that, theoretically, any cell in the human body could be fertilized by a sperm. In fact, three generations of healthy mice have already been created using this technique. Researchers will soon test out the theory using skin cells.
                The senior author of the study, Dr. Tony Perry, a molecular embryologist, channeling his inner Shecky Greene said: “Some people say ‘start the day with an egg,’ but what this paper says is that you don’t necessarily have to start development with one.” Apparently his humor is still in the embryonic stage.
                Early on in this experiment, scientists “tricked” an egg into developing into an embryo using special chemicals that made the egg “think” it had been fertilized. Importantly, the cells in an embryo copy themselves completely upon division, closely mirroring other cells in the body.
                When they then injected these embryos with sperm, they grew into healthy mice that subsequently produced their own litters. Scientists postulate that this technique should work with any cell in the body as long as half of its chromosomes are removed first, allowing it to fuse with the sperm’s chromosomes.
                This ability to reprogram cells- and their fate- raises the possibility that gay men could have a child with half its DNA from each member of the couple, as long as they found a woman surrogate to carry the baby to term. It also may afford the opportunity for a man to fertilize his own cells, thereby producing offspring containing a mixture of genes inherited from himself and his parents. Oh, boy!
                Nothing weird about that.

                What comes first, motherless babies and men fertilizing themselves, or societal dissolution?

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