Yesterday, I commented on the research where two female mice together had baby mice without a father. I’ve communicated with three geneticists on some of the implications of this, and my head is starting to spin. Let me see if I can keep this straight:
In the experiment, researchers genetically-altered the DNA of a female mouse embryo, grew it to adulthood and combined its eggs (carrying the genetic modification) with a normal mouse eggs (with no genetic modification) and created the first mammal born with two mothers and no father.
I asked my geneticist friends two questions–
First, would the eggs from a genetically-altered mammal be able to be fertilized by sperm or would they only be able to develop if merged with an egg?
Answer – it depends on the type of genetic modification made. If one type of modification was made, then it could be the case that all the eggs would be limited to developing only if merged with non-altered female eggs. Such a mammal could not mate with a male unless the genetic alteration was undone by another genetic intervention.
If a different type of genetic alteration was made (a more likely alteration I’m told), then the eggs would be 50/50–half could be mated with a male and half with a female.
Second, I asked whether this could be possible to do in humans.
Answer, possibly, but it will take a while to figure out how, and anyone who attempted to do it would be crazy as we have no idea what kind of problems will develop from such a genetic alteration. (It was noted that such genetic changes are rather difficult to do, so it would be more desirable–from a practical standpoint–to try to successfully do this with chemical rather than a genetic alteration.)
It seems to me that the implications of applying this to humans are this:
First, we know there are people and scientists who are willing to try human reproductive cloning even though we have never had a normal animal clone. Just as there are crazy people willing to experiment with cloning, I believe there are people crazy enough to try this.
Second, as I mentioned yesterday, there are likely people willing to do what they can to enable their daughter’s ability to mate with other women, even to the extent that they limit the girl’s ability to only mate with another female. As many homosexuals believe that being gay is based on their genetic makeup, it could then seem normal to do what they could to ensure a biological child “fulfilled their destiny” by limiting them to only reproducing with another female.
If a lesbian couple did not want to go so far, they could potentially take the other modification option and enable the child’s eggs to be 50% compatible with a male and 50% compatible with a female. This could be seen as giving their child the fullest range of opportunity–whether they be homosexual or heterosexual, they could reproduce with their desired mate. Since giving more options is considered such a high moral good in today’s culture, granting your child such an option might one day (if possible and safe) almost seem mandatory.
And if you’re head isn’t spinning yet, here’s the best part. This might even be possible to do in males. The same technique could be used to produce an “androgenote” (2 sperm pronuclei, either from the same individual or 2 different individuals.) Here you’d get an egg from a donor, remove the egg chromosomes (as you do in cloning), add the 2 sperm pronuclei with their half-chromosome sets, and implant the resulting embryo in a surrogate. The same alteration to one set of DNA would again be necessary, but the resulting child could be related to two men (or maybe even just one if you took two sperm from one man).
So one day, not only might a lesbian couple be able to have a child genetically related to both of them, but two gay men might just be able to do the same thing. And in both cases, the way to do it would be to genetically alter one of the donor parties when they are only an embryo.