Sunday, 27 December 2009

Gender Benders..

Further to my post on the perineal raphe, Softboy found this article in the Telegraph:

Researchers have found that the body is in a constant fight to remain either female or male and the suppression of just one gene could cause it to "flip" from one to the other.

The remarkable findings refute the generally held view that sex is determined at birth and is irreversible in later life.

They could also lead to treatments for certain gender disorders in children, early menopause in women and even eventually non-surgical sex changes.

In mammals, males have XY chromosomes and females XX. The new research shows that another gene is responsible for switching women into men.

If the FOXL2 is switched on then the body grows ovaries, switched off and they are replaced by testicles.

But what really surprised the researchers is that the process continues after birth and the body remains in a constant tussle to either switch on or off the gene - even in adulthood.

"No one would have betted on this," said Professor Mathias Treier of the University of Cologne in Germany. "That's why the finding is so spectacular,"

The team found that in adult mice by turning off the FoxL2 gene, the ovary cells started to change testicular cells. This suggest the same effect could happen to humans.

"It was thought that you were born either female or male and then your body forgot about it," said Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, the co-author at Britain's Medical Research Council's National Institute of Medical Research.

"But this suggests that the battle of the sexes continues all the way through your life, "

The researchers believe that the process could be similar to that in some fish who are able switch sexes at times when there is a scarcity of either males or females.

Could this be the reason why some people seem confused about their sexuality? A faulty gene switch?


Ben said...

Actually, many (maybe most?) mollusks can develop into either sex, influenced by factors including water temperature. Males form in cooler water, females in warmer water. There is concern that global warming will have a big impact on mollusk populations. I will try to tack down a digestible scientific article on the topic. Oysters, according to the Wikipedia article, can be female for part of their lives and male for the other part. Now, I am envious though I would not want to be an oyster. I read about one kind of barnacle (again, I’ll try to find the source research) where they begin as females. As new mollusks attach to the top of what is becoming a stack of mollusks, they become males. It must have to do with reproduction. And for some additional news on mollusk reproduction, some barnacles can have penises (is that the correct plural?) that are eight times their body length. That boggles the mind. See the link below.

Kevin Musgrove said...

On the latter point, when we had the lectures on the Ostracoda (free-swimming relatives of the barnacles) we were told that were the animal the size of a human being it could stand in the goalmouth at one end of Wembley Stadium and use its penis to knock your hat off in the stands behind the opposing goal.

Everything - identity, coherence, even existance - is in a constant struggle to stay as it is. The puzzle is that the failure is so infrequent.

Joanna Cake said...

Hey Guys! Thanks for these contributions. Ruf and I are particularly impressed by the Wembley penis anecdote :)

It is a fascinating subject. I think I would quite enjoy having the ability to switch my sexual attraction from time to time but Im sure it must become very confusing. I was watching a programme about Steve Coogan this afternoon and it reminded me how attractive I found both of his Calf alter egos - Paul and Pauline. Most peculiar!

Ben said...

There is a lot more to add in this domain. The field of the evolution of sexual and reproductive strategies is quite fascinating. When I have time, I hope to get back to updating ,my own blog. This will be an ongoing theme.

Have a great 2010.