Two men may be able to have a child.
September 25, 2000 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Two men may be able to have a child. Together. Without a woman. This is a pretty interesting article, and to tell the truth, I can't wait for it to happen. But I do have one problem with it...What would Dr. Laura think? Via Drudge
posted by Doug (22 comments total)

Suddenly, I'm not such an "anti-cloning" person any more... Maybe it's sappy, but I have to say if it were possible, my partner and I would probably consider it...

(My favorite part of the article, though, is the implication that the research to enable this was actually performed by Dolly the Cloned Sheep...)
posted by m.polo at 8:04 AM on September 25, 2000

When opening paragraphs go wrong!

The concept of this just blows me away. Sometimes I wish I'd spent more time paying attention in Biology class, so I could play with this stuff hands on.

Mind you, it's much more difficult to hack DNA then it is to hack FreeBSD... :-)
posted by cCranium at 8:38 AM on September 25, 2000

While interesting, the 'without a woman' tagline is a little misleading.

A donor egg from a woman is still needed, and a surrogate mother is needed to bring the child to term.

I know that egg donation (for current in-vitro techniques) isn't as simple as sperm donation. The donor woman has to go on medication to increase egg production, and the extraction is a surgical in nature. I'm also pretty sure (but not positive) that fertilization has to occur shortly after extraction.

Now, with this new procedure, they're stripping all genetic information out of the donor egg to insert the new DNA. It's not clear whether or not they'd be able to build up a 'bank' of these blank eggs, or if close cooperation with a donor would be necessary, as is the case now.

Then, after an egg is secured and fertilized, a woman is needed to have the child. While the fetus will be a genetic offspring to the two men involved, a woman still needs to carry the child for nine months. I'm not, and never will be, aquatinted with the experience on a first hand basis, but it seems like there's a good possibility that some kind of bond will form between the surrogate mother and this child her body is growing.

So, while this new procedure (that they haven't been able to complete yet) offers the possibility for a child with genetic traits from two men, it hardly takes women out of the equation.

While I find the science behind this kind of work fascinating, I don't understand our obsession with genetic offspring. Whatever the sexual preference of you and partner(s), there are more than enough children out there to adopt. It's seems arrogant to insist upon one that happens to be made up of your genes.
posted by alan at 8:57 AM on September 25, 2000

It's that arrogance that's kept the species going, so it can't be all bad...

And while it is certainly true that there are a lot of children out there to adopt, you cannot be one half of a homosexual couple, or you wouldn't so offhandedly say it that way. There are a lot of children who need loving, stable homes with parents who can afford to give them the best possible environment to grow up in - but there are also a lot of adoption avenues that are simply closed to us. Having children that are genetically ours completely removes the legal, religious and child welfare (now, there's an oxymoron for you...) systems from the process. We'dve been happy to adopt a child - if only someone really wanted to let us.
posted by m.polo at 9:05 AM on September 25, 2000

Uh, Alan, our "obsession with genetic offspring" is the mechanism by which we evolved all our higher faculties -- why, without it, Metafilter itself would not exist! -- or if it did would be more gorilla- or dolphin-oriented.
posted by Nic at 9:54 AM on September 25, 2000

Nic: we are smarter than our evolved traits... this is why birth control works.

One could argue that metafilter is plenty gorilla oriented already...

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:00 AM on September 25, 2000

Does this only work for men, or could lesbians use it as well? I imagine having no Y chromosomes to give, lesbians would have only girls. I have been writing love songs to my own mitochondria lately, vainly hopeing to woo them, and get the to consider letting me live forever.
I am troubled by M.Polo's first post. I have always been pro-cloning, and am glad to see anyone agree. Why did there have to be something in it for you before you gave it your blessing, and how does this new revelation outweigh your former resistance? I think this might just be one of the first tricks out of the new bag, and we should start unpacking (responsibly, of course). I am frustrated that we are so much further behind than we could be if there were not so many people opposed to this important science.
posted by thirteen at 10:27 AM on September 25, 2000

The bit about arrogance was more a comment on the fertility industry. People try to have a child without medical aid, fail, and then spend tens of thousands of dollars betting against odds that fertility treatments will help when adoption seems the saner, safer, and often more affordable/reliable choice. Yes, that instinct to pass on our genes may have gotten us where we are today, but we're not apes anymore. (If we ever were. And no, that's not an endorsement of creation 'science', which is by far the silliest explanation I've ever heard for the existence of the human species)

The adoption system is certainly daunting to any couple looking to adopt, and certainly more so to a non-heterosexual one. However, things are changing and gay couples are adopting. If you're worried about claims on the child being made by birth parents that change their minds, options like open adoption help ensure that these kinds of things don't happen.

As for the legal protections involved in having a child whose DNA comes from you and your partner, there are still the rights of the surrogate mother to think of. The Mary Beth Whitehead case in the late 80's eventually established legal precedence for at least visitation rights with surrogate parents. It's not that hard to image a case where the Religious Right and other homophobic organizations would mount a legal campaign on behalf of a surrogate mother to get full custody of the child she carried for two gay parents. Even with this new procedure there's still a risk of the courts taking your child away.

And please don't take this personally, but it's not wise to make assumptions about someone's personal life based on their politics.
posted by alan at 10:32 AM on September 25, 2000

Of course, the Real Solution here is to simply murder half of the global population, and turn the rest into biomachines -- biomachines controlled by my Absolute Will.

...a quick, sensible alternative to decades of arguing about genetics and gene manipulation. A bright and shining future awaits those who enslave themselves to me! Let us all come together, set aside our differences, and work toward a glorious future in which children don't exist.
posted by aramaic at 11:17 AM on September 25, 2000

Will I have to fuck David Crosby for this to work?
posted by solistrato at 11:26 AM on September 25, 2000

Thank goodness this is done in vitro!

Cause if it weren't, it'd be a most painful experience . . .
posted by aladfar at 12:34 PM on September 25, 2000

Don't get too excited by this idea yet, just because the technology exists doesn't mean that this will work. So far it hasn't.

I'm no fan of cloning technology and I'm definitely against the use of fertility drugs. This seems like another bad idea as well. Ever seen or heard of a human YY chromosome? Neither have I. Maybe we weren't created that way. :)

Even if you aren't a creationist and believe in evolution, you have to be worried when this sort of thing pops up. What effect will we have on the species if we override basic biological functions? I guarantee most of the scientists don't give a damn about such questions.

And alan, why is any group that doesn't celebrate homosexuality labeled "homophobic"? The Bible was written far before it became politically correct to celebrate homosexuality as normal.

posted by AirHockey at 2:37 PM on September 25, 2000

solistrado: i am going to be doubled over laughing my ass off for a week. thanks!
posted by quonsar at 2:51 PM on September 25, 2000

Has anyone stopped to think whether this is a good idea?

I mean, really, can you imagine what a slovenly hellraiser a child of two men would be?
posted by mikewas at 2:57 PM on September 25, 2000

AirHockey, I never labeled anyone who doesn't celebrate homosexuality as homophobic. The phrase, "The Religious Right" typically refers to a
political movement among the right wing. They've called non-straight folk child molesters, mentally diseased, damned, etc. That's homophobic. It was never, and has never been, my intention to label all christians as such.

I don't want people to celebrate homosexuality, I just want them to accept that it's normal and not to discriminate against people who are gay/bi/transgender/etc. Perhaps it's Politically Correct (in an era that finds being politically correct politically incorrect), but it's also humane.

As for the bible and homosexuality, books have been, and will be, written on the subject, so I'll refrain (-:
posted by alan at 3:09 PM on September 25, 2000

Politically correct. Feh. I'll start being politically correct when you start calling me Caucasian-American. (quote stolen from
posted by tomorama at 3:57 PM on September 25, 2000

alan: The donor woman has to go on medication to increase egg production, and the extraction is a surgical in nature.

I know very, very little about fertility and biology in general, but isn't it true that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have?
posted by kidsplateusa at 4:16 PM on September 25, 2000

kidsplateusa: yes, women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, but they're in a sort of freeze dried state. There's a process whose name escapes me by which eggs are prepared for fertilization, then threaded down the fallopian tubes. It's this process that the medication induces.

posted by Mars Saxman at 4:30 PM on September 25, 2000

Kidsplateusa, yes a woman is born with all the eggs she'll ever need.

However these eggs aren't all ready for fertilization. Over the life of a woman, eggs become mature and are released into the fallopian tubes. This happens about once a month. (Sometimes twice, sometimes not at all)

Non-mature eggs can't be used. Since more than one egg is needed to ensure success (how many can they fertilize, how many can be implanted, how many survive being implanted etc.), the donor woman is given medication that will increase the number of mature eggs that are available to extract.

Britannica has more on ovulation and current in vitro techniques. They're don't go into that much detail, but they do explain it better than I just did.

That's all from Dr. Science for today.
posted by alan at 4:41 PM on September 25, 2000

Tomorama: Does it count if I call you a caucasian American?
posted by davidgentle at 5:31 PM on September 25, 2000

There are some satirical web sites by a web artist named Virgil Wong that predicted this development:

GenoChoice and Male Pregnancy.

(part of an online art project called paperveins.
posted by shylock at 5:45 PM on September 25, 2000

/me shoots mikewas a very unpleasant look.

posted by Mars Saxman at 5:49 PM on September 25, 2000

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