Learn Whether or Not Parthenogenesis Is Possible for Humans

Can children be created without sperm?

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It’s a theme as old as science fiction: A world without men. The story is a familiar one: lesbians living together in an all-women utopia, loving, raising families and their own food. No men are needed, even in the creation of children. There's a word for creating children without men: parthenogenesis, but it's never applied to humans.

Parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, is defined as reproduction without fertilization. It occurs naturally in some plant and insect species. It does not occur naturally in mammals, but like many other procedures developed in modern medicine, it can now occur with the assistance of scientists.

Scientists have created mice pups from two female mice. No male mice or sperm were involved. The offspring were all female. But despite this breakthrough, the idea that human babies could be created without men is still pretty much the stuff of fiction.

Kaguya Has Two Mommies

In April 2004, Japanese scientists announced they created the first mammal, a mouse, through parthenogenesis by combining the nucleus of one female mouse's egg with that of another. The female offspring survived to adulthood and now has babies of her own. They call her Kaguya, after a Japanese fairy tale.

While this is a scientific breakthrough, the process has not been perfected yet. It took 460 tries at growing embryos this way. And of the 10 live mice born in the surviving mouse’s litter, she is the only one to survive to adulthood.

Parthenogenesis for Lesbians

Lesbians who want children together can make that happen through artificial insemination, but, of course, that child is biologically related to just one partner and the donor. It is not yet possible for two women to produce a child that comes from genetic material from both partners. Whether this is possible in the future is, for now, just an unanswered question, but it is extremely unlikely at this time.

The procedure used by the Japanese scientists is currently unreliable and has not been proven safe or even possible for humans to reproduce through parthenogenesis. There is a small possibility that, with further work and study, it could become an option available in the future to women who seek the assistance of fertility clinics.

Scientists are reluctant to apply this kind of experiment to humans.Tomohiro Kono, the doctor who created the mouse Kaguya, told the BBC: "This is a very complicated thing. So no, it is impossible to do this experiment in a human. And I don't want to do it."

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