Ahoy there, welcome to another Reproduction Wednesday! Can you believe it’s been a week since the last one? It feels like it has been MUCH longer because I have been VERY busy. My acting group presented our performance “Pub People” on Monday and it was wonderful, if I do say so myself. Plus ships don’t exactly plunder themselves.
Today we’re talking about the potential for homosexual reproduction. I’ll be focussing on two girls, at the request of a friend o’ mine. The question being – can two girls have a baby together that shares their genetic material?
Is it possible? Sure. Just about anything is possible. Some people have already done some research.
One experiment in Japan took genetic material from two female eggs and combined them to make a female offspring which was capable of normal reproduction. They called her Kaguya. The downside is it took 460 tries to get this one offspring to adulthood, and those ain’t good odds. Another experiment in the UK took bone marrow stem cells from males and coaxed them into sperm, and claimed to have done the same thing using female embryonic stem cells. Would it be possible to take other stem cells from an adult female and turn them into sperm? Abracadabra man, you could use that stuff for IVF and from there, the world!
Whatever. It ain’t that easy. A LOT of things happen in an egg or sperm to make them functional – it’s not just genes in the right cell-type. Epigenetic imprinting is a process by which certain genes are silenced in eggs and others are silenced in sperm, so that when they combine only one copy in the embryo is functional. This doesn’t involve changes to the genetic sequence, but it definately changes the way that sequence is read – like sticking two pages of a manual together.
Poor epigenetic imprinting can lead to a host of diseases, so while two girls COULD one day MAYBE have a baby that shares their genetic material, would that child be healthy? Safety is a massive concern not only in this case, but also for human cloning and other assisted reproductive techniques.
With years of research and a lot more understanding of the biology of conception (there are still a lot of question marks out there, particularly on a genetic level), I think two women could have a baby which shared their genetic material, but honestly I don’t think it’s a priority for people right now. Most countries won’t even recognise gay marriage, do you think they’ll be funding the research? Then again, there’s big bucks in IVF and down the track there could likely be big bucks in this as well.
I think it’s WAY down the track though. Might want to consider adoption or a sperm donor while you’re waiting.