Bringing Us One Step Closer to Our Real-Life Themyscira
October 13, 2018 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Same-sex mouse parents give birth via gene editing: Scientists delivered pups with genetic material from two moms and two dads. But only pups with two moms survived to have babies themselves "In an important move for both science as well as Women Who Are Over This Shit, researchers in China have just helped a pair of female mouse parents give birth to healthy pups via gene editing and stem cells, no male mice involved."
posted by homunculus (10 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
It’s very interesting science and all, but I am sad to discover that baby mice are called “pups,” rather than “mouselings” or “whiskerlettes” or “little pink blobs.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:14 AM on October 13, 2018 [10 favorites]

In my day we called them "pinkies". First they are pinkies, then they are fuzzies, then they gets their eyes open and they is 'small mice'.
posted by The otter lady at 10:19 AM on October 13, 2018 [20 favorites]

This is great news no matter where you fall on the weighting of trainability or biologically driven behavior in humans and in men. Reproductively intent females get a horrible deal at present in human society: paternal investment is uneven and exacted at high price, patriarcal cultures persist and attempt to control and exploit all women, male violence is ubiquitous. A female-only population capable of indeffinate auto-reproduction could offer a great escape from testosterone and tradition. I hope we males never find out where you all go until it's too late for us to stop you.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 11:27 AM on October 13, 2018 [12 favorites]

The dependence on technology, and the risk of subtle defects, make that a really high-risk strategy. I don't think I'd want to bring a child into the world by a mechanism that might have devastating effects fifty years down the road.
posted by Leon at 3:15 PM on October 13, 2018

I hope they don't figure out how to go full YY because that kid would be a fucking disaster.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:33 PM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is fascinating for many reasons, one of which is seeing how much cis-dominant thinking not only shapes the original articles but all the subsequent commentary and responses as well.

With that said this is a fucking money quote:

“I personally think that if we view the inability of opposite sex couples to reproduce as something that deserves technological intervention,” Suter says, “then it seems to me that I don't think we can make a coherent argument against letting same sex couples do the same thing.”
posted by nikaspark at 4:31 PM on October 13, 2018 [18 favorites]

I hope they don't figure out how to go full YY because that kid would be a fucking disaster.

Good news: there's too many important genes on the X chromosome, and the Y chromosome by contrast is kind of defined by having very, very few functional genes on it. At least, in humans--it gets complicated outside of mammals, where switches about where in the genome sex determination loci are located increase the level of functionality on the sex-determining chromosome. Anyway, YY mammals are impossible in every species I am aware of, even in cases where it is possible to have XY females (as in certain populations of wood voles; tl;dr: you can wind up with X-linked loci that can override the effects of the usual male-determining locus, SRY. YY pups are conceived but not viable and are generally reabsorbed, IIRC).

All that aside--my god, this is a cool fucking success story. Way cooler than cloning, actually. See, the reason this has been so especially hard in mammals boils down to the imprinting, as the article points out--and that's something that you don't have to worry about in cloning cases. Most imprinted loci I'm aware of are paired in nature--that is, you'll have one gene like IGF2, a growth protein, which is imprinted such that only the paternally inherited copy is expressed, and then you'll have a second gene like IGF2R, the receptor for that protein, which is imprinted such that only the maternally inherited copy is expressed. We have no idea why mammals are Like This--imprinting is a very elaborated mammal-specific thing--but the main theories revolve around a) histories of sexual conflict between males and females and b) the development and function of the placenta. (Marsupials do imprinting also, but as with last week's scrotum post, Marsupials Do It Weird.) It seems like the researchers handled this by simply deleting the imprinted regions, but that doesn't seem like a good long-term solution.

All of this is a huge part of why you do not get even occasional parthenogenesis in mammals. (I think the other part is probably related to endothermy and sex determination, but that's... another happy ramble.)

I have concerns about deleting these regions, long term--honestly, I would guess that the main issues aren't so much the children in question but rather the impact on their children, and quite possibly specifically the children of their sons. What is getting deleted, and what will switching up the imprinting pattern to the male one do to future pups?
posted by sciatrix at 4:40 PM on October 13, 2018 [15 favorites]

(And yeah, apologies for the language, but at a certain point I run out of ways to reference "the constellation of highly correlated biological traits we associate with a specific gender identity" without including so many sets of asides that the communication becomes studded with jargon and impenetrable. I would really love it if we had different but also widely-understood ways to refer to these biological and developmental organizational trajectories--Mullerian and Wolffian, perhaps.)
posted by sciatrix at 4:44 PM on October 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

I think when we look at the science of it there’s shorthand we gotta use, and of all people who’ve made contributions here, sciatrix, you defaulting to binary sex traits to describe this stuff is something I know is coming with a healthy dose of bias checking.

I’m mostly just glad I’m at a point in life where I can see these kinds of articles and find the biases interesting as opposed to upsetting, while also being super excited at the implications of this research.
posted by nikaspark at 5:51 PM on October 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

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