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Will humans be able to edit our genes to be able to decrease the risk of certain genetic defects being passed down through generations, or be able to give same-sex couples the opportunity to have their own genetic children?
Genetic editing has been the basis of many science-fiction movies such as Gattaca, a movie where science has progressed to the point that children are conceived through genetic selection in order to give parents the healthy child they desire, and movies such as the x-men franchise where mutants exist both due to experiments and biological darwinism. However, genetic editing is not just about editing the genes of humans or animals, genetic editing also includes plants; an example of this would be editing genomes in plants to advance crop transformation.
Every day there are new advancements in genetic editing, and therefore new possibilities brought forth through these advancements; such as the possibility of same-sex parents having their own genetic children. One example of an advancement in genetic-editing is from China. A group of scientists were able to successfully edit the genetics of same-sex mouse parents to allow them to give birth t their own genetic children. This advancement means that eventually, same-sex couples would be able to have their own children without the need of artificial insemination or surrogacy. Reproduction by parthenogenesis or gynogenesis exists with vertebrates such as fish, reptiles, and amphibians but it doesn’t exist in mammals. The article says that, “In the 1980s, elegant pronuclear transplantation experiments performed by the Solter and Surani laboratories suggested that mouse development required both maternal and paternal contributions, which implied the presence of genetic asymmetries of two parental chromosome”. The experiment attempted to create both bimaternal mice, mice with two female parents, and bipaternal mice, mice with two male parents. In order to create healthy young, the researchers had to cut locations in their genetics using ‘molecular scissors’ known as CRISPR-Cas9, in bimaternal mice they cut out three locations and in bipaternal mice they cut out seven locations. After this step the researched moved the altered cells into an unchanged immature egg for the female mice and then implanted the egg into a surrogate so it could develop.
The creation of bipaternal mice in this experiment was more difficult as for an embryo to be created, there must be an egg. For the male mice, researchers injected the sperm and the stem cells into an immature egg that was stripped of its nucleus. In order for the modified egg to grow, they had to foster its growth outside of a uterus before implanting it into a surrogate. The difficulty for creating bipaternal children is not only present in the experiment where lab fertilization techniques are present, but successful reproduction of two males in the wild is extremely rare and can only be found in certain fish in experimental conditions. Once the experiment concluded there were 29 healthy pups born, these pups lived to adulthood and even had offspring of their own; however there were 210 embryos used in total which suggests that the process was inefficient.
Why is this experiment important to the scientific community?
The experiment gave the scientific community the factors needed for passing the barriers present for same-sex reproduction in mammals. This experiment gives hope for human same-sex parents that one day, they might be able to have their own children if the process is improved and is able to work well in larger mammals. Although the researchers say that we are still a long ways away from replicating this experiment successfully in human beings.
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