12 July 2010

Those lesbian mice are FucM knockouts.

Molecular geneticists Dongkyu Park, Dongwook Choi, Junghoon Lee, Dae-sik Lim, and Chankyu Park from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology published an article on July 7, 2010 in BMC Genetics 2010 claiming they could create lesbian mice through genetic manipulation.

They created a strain of mutant female mice lacking one particular gene (FucM) that produces a particular enzyme, and these mice are called the "FucM knockouts."

"The FucM knockout mice displayed an abnormal sexual receptivity...although the animals were fertile." In other words, the FucM knockouts weren't interested in smelling the urine of, or having sex with male mice, but were totally down with the ladies. Fertility was established among some of the FucM knockouts by...well, rape. (In case you were curious, the scientific term for rape is "forced intromission.")

The researchers also discovered that the brain structure of the FucM knockouts was atypical among females, but resembled the brain-development of ordinary male mice.

While the research is certainly interesting, as this article points out, it's important to note that the enzyme doesn't function exactly the same way for gender development in humans. Stanford University's Dr. Simon LeVey, says "Nevertheless, it is probably only a matter of time before molecular geneticists identify genes that influence sexual orientation in humans."

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