Scientists Change Sexual Orientation of Worms with Gene Alteration

Worms

Scientists experimenting on tiny worms called nematodes have found they are able to switch the worms’ sexual orientation by altering a gene in the brain.

Via The Globe and Mail: “The study reinforces the notion that sexual orientation is hard-wired in the brain, said Erik Jorgensen, scientific director of the Brain Institute at the University of Utah. ‘They look like girls, but act and think like boys,’ Utah researcher Jamie White, who worked on the study published in the journal Current Biology, said in a statement. Researchers in Dr. Jorgensen’s lab switched on a gene in female worms that makes the body develop male structures, but they only activated the gene in the brain. As a result, the female worms still had female bodies, but they behaved like males.”

As Dan Savage at SLOG notes, while more proof that sexual orientation is genetic is definitely welcome, the fact that it can be so easily switched may have the wingnuts rejoicing as well.

Comments

  1. Taylor says

    I’m sorry… I’d rather sexuality be a choice than something genetic that can be changed on a whim.

    It brings about thoughts of Gattaca. As great of a film as that was, I really don’t have any intentions of living in a future like that.

  2. no-no says

    don’t worry. with population expanding (9 billions in 50 years) and the problems it will bring, “they” ‘ll want to create gay people in no time…

  3. scientitian says

    Nematodes are quite primitive within the animal kingdom. To give you an idea, earthworms and leaches are highly advanced in comparison. I don’t think we have any reason to worry about people making “changes” to their unborn children just yet.

  4. Nita says

    If you can change sexual orientation in one, you can change sexual orientation in all — just have to find the key. But it can be done. It’s not like animals which can change their sex (and thus orientation) are unknown. This is just human manipulation. Folks are already aborting babies for being the ‘wrong’ sex, for ‘not being perfect’ healthwise or genewise. The true anti-abortionists are not going to abort babies because they may be gay; they may or may not invest in gene therapy, on top of god and prayer. Pro-abortionists don’t really have anything to say, since ‘choice’ enters into this.

    One day, you won’t need contacts to make your brown eyes blue. Prepare for what’s coming, don’t pretend it isn’t conceiveable.

  5. Jonathon says

    A few thoughts:

    1. Nematodes are much less physiologically complex than humans. They evolved much earlier and their bodies are much more “malleable” than ours are.

    2. Sexual orientation and even physical sexual changes occur in lower animals like fish, insects, etc. In some species, especially fish, an overabundance of one sex will cause some members of the population to actually change their sex – and their orientation. Again, more malleable.

    3. The fundies will never be satisfied, no matter how clearly science may one day show a genetic/biological basis for sexual orientation. They will stamp their feet and throw their books at us – their hatred of us runs deep and they have collected lots and lots of money from their supporters by using us as a scapegoat for all of the problems of the world. The fires aren’t even out yet in Southern California, but we’re already getting blamed (a la Falwell) for bringing down “God’s wrath”.

    4. Has anyone ever given thought to the idea that there are more homosexuals in the population now because of the population explosion? Perhaps homosexuality is nature’s way of curbing overpopulation and irresponsible and indiscriminate breeding by heterosexuals?

  6. says

    A friend of mine forwarded this article to me earlier today( printed in some newspaper) and I thought to myself…Goodies, now fundies must be having a field day since science for once seems to be confirming what they believe. You know, that sexual orientation can be changed…Interesting article!

  7. Wes says

    “I’m sorry… I’d rather sexuality be a choice than something genetic that can be changed on a whim.”

    If it were choice it could be changed on a whim as well, or am I missing something?

  8. Wes says

    “Has anyone ever given thought to the idea that there are more homosexuals in the population now because of the population explosion? Perhaps homosexuality is nature’s way of curbing overpopulation and irresponsible and indiscriminate breeding by heterosexuals?”

    There may be some truth to this, but I also think that there are simply “more” homosexuals now than previously because it is much easier to be gay in society now. Not saying it isn’t sometimes hard, but its nothing compared to how things were. I’d bet there were plenty of homos back in the day who could never come out, had wives they didn’t love, committed suicide, etc.

    For those reasons its very hard to tell how many gay people there actually were, and in fact its still hard to tell how many there are today.

  9. Wes says

    You know, its interesting that the ‘wingnuts’ would be ‘rejoicing’ over something like this due to the fact that they could change it.

    The whole basis of their anti-gay view is that its unnatural and against God’s law.

    Well what is more unnatural than tinkering with God’s supposed creation, and altering someone’s brain so that they’ll be what you deem as ‘natural’?

    Such hypocrisy.

  10. Derrick from Philly says

    Jonathan: If they could prove that population explosions led to an increase in homosexuality I’d start to saving my money right now to get to India.
    I wonder if they have mail order grooms–maybe they could just send him here to me.

  11. sam says

    “there are simply “more” homosexuals now than previously because it is much easier to be gay in society now. Not saying it isn’t sometimes hard, but its nothing compared to how things were”

    Thats true, and think about Rome- it was super acceptable to be openly homosexual with young boys and good male friends, and tons of people were. There is apparently some strong correlation between how homosexuality is viewed in a given society and the number of gays that pop up in it.

  12. sam says

    “there are simply “more” homosexuals now than previously because it is much easier to be gay in society now. Not saying it isn’t sometimes hard, but its nothing compared to how things were”

    Thats true, and think about Rome- it was super acceptable to be openly homosexual with young boys and good male friends, and tons of people were. There is apparently some strong correlation between how homosexuality is viewed in a given society and the number of gays that pop up in it.

  13. BestGay says

    While I know that some would think that this is a great discovery…it scares me that some people would use this to change the future of their offspring. The most amazing people in my life happen to be gay, and I wouldn’t change that for all of the money in the world.

  14. P. Churchill says

    Human sexual orientation is a complex matter.

    My sexuality for example:

    Married exclusive heterosexual tor 5 years, very enjoyable sex life with my wife, but other problems related to career goals force us to divorce.

    One day, while on a business trip end up, while under the influence, accepting the sexual advances of a man. Realize that it was very enjoyable. Suddenly begin seeing men a potential sexual partners, when in the past never thought of them that way. In fact, the whole idea of men having sex with men seemed to me slightly absurd.

    Two years later:

    I get involved with a guy and we have very enjoyable sexual encounters on a a regular basis. Go from being exclusively a top to being a bottom. We dont live together but see each other at least 2 times a week and have great sex. Three years later my friend’s father dies and he decides to marry a woman. My friend thought he was gay, but turns out to be enjoying his marriage and his new sexual life. Now he claims that he is attracted to women only. I on the other hand, after having been completely heterosexual find myself attracted mostly to men.

    I search for a replacement relation on line,
    meet a heterosexual man who has decided to explore man to man sex because his wife no longer enjoys sex and has become too obese.
    We begin regular sexual encounters. My straight sex partner one day tells me that he finds sex with men more enjoyable. I go from being mostly a bottom to being mostly a top with my new sexual partner. I also encourage him to have sex with his wife.
    Wife starts going to a gym and loses 25 pounds. He now has sex with wife regularly, but enjoys having sex with me also once in a while.

    In the past, I mostly was attracted to caucasian males. Now find myself attracted to heavyset oriental males, also to Oriental females. Other women have disappeared from my radar.

    Why are scientists not looking for a gene that makes people prefer apples to pairs,
    or like algebra better than calculus?

  15. Sexualman says

    I have come to the conclusion that the primacy of human sexuality has caused it to be enslaved by oppressive ideologies like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other cultural artifacts parading as science. It is my belief that human sexuality is a potential capable of expression in multitude of ways in the course of the life of any individual, and not just in a homosexual or heterosexual frame, as many believe. The sexuality of a person should not be frozen in a category, but rather should be left to find expression as the person lives.

    As technology advances, and if the internet remains a place where people can express themselves anonymously, we will see a flowering of the potential of human sexuality, and rigid categories like Gay, Straight, will dissolve into insignificance.

    Most scientists have adopted mentalities inherited from religious traditions, or other dogmatic interpretations, and now let these direct their scientific study of human sexuality. What they are doing is not studying human sexuality, but imprisoning human sexuality in a plethora of scientific snippets that lend support to interpretations of human sexuality that were essentially flawed to begin with.

  16. 334345 says

    “While I know that some would think that this is a great discovery…it scares me that some people would use this to change the future of their offspring. The most amazing people in my life happen to be gay, and I wouldn’t change that for all of the money in the world.”

    Ummmm, I would abort a child I knew would be straight. Clearly, being straight is a far more difficult thing than being gay. My gay friends lead very enjoyable lives. Of course, they live in large cities where being gay is not such a big issue.

  17. 334345 says

    “Don’t worry. with population expanding (9 billions in 50 years) and the problems it will bring, “they” ‘ll want to create gay people in no time…”

    Not only that, homosexuality is the solution to many other of the world’s problems. People that care about the survival of mankind, should be wishing to see more homosexuals around. I have noticed that generally homosexuals are less violent, more introspective, and for a very high percentage of them their condition has led them to develop better thinking skills.

    Again, if I could know that my child were going to be straight, I would have him/her aborted.

  18. inspiration says

    alright, so sexual orientation is not a choice, its somthing that is hardwired in the brain/ genetics. still, homosexuality is a mistake, a cancer if you will. more akin to a disorder that should be pittied, then to something that should be praised or welcomed. By the way, 334345: you have lost your mind. aborting a child because he/she is straight, when the homosexuals are the ones with the disorder? haha you are sick.l

  19. INSPIRATION says

    hahahaha wow, i never said that i wanted gays dead. so don’t put words in my mouth. haha it was in fact one of your supporters, 334345, who said that he would kill a non-gay baby simply because of the fact that it isn’t gay (sounds like hitler killing jews just because they are jews dont it?). i’m not even saying that i’m better, or that gays shouldn’t have rights. simply that the findings can be interpreted to mean: homosexuality is a neurological (possibly genetic) disorder similar to to cancer. not saying its bad, just that that is what it is. a mutation of a gene i.e. cancer.

  20. INPIRATION says

    o p.s. i was only poting on this cause i needed a break from assignments from time to time and it was on google news…. so ya i’m done, argue if you want. i think my point is well made + i won’t be back on anyway

  21. scientitian says

    I think everyone is reading WAY too much into an experiment involving a couple of frickin NEMATODES. How do we know they didn’t figure out how to make a tranny roundworm instead of a gay roundworm? They’ve done neither, because its a bloody roundworm! The sense of touch in the tip of your little toe is far more neurologically advanced than the entirety of this creature’s brain.
    And to Inspiration (though he states he will not return), the frequency of homosexuality is so high that the likeliness of it being a random genetic defect in each and every homosexual is essentially zero. Furthermore, the term “disorder” does not even apply – my being gay is in no way damaging in and of itself.

  22. 334345 says

    “By the way, 334345: you have lost your mind. aborting a child because he/she is straight, when the homosexuals are the ones with the disorder? haha you are sick.”

    Well, you think that Gays are sick. I dont. I think that Gays are better for humanity and the planet, and the general survival of mankind. Most heterosexuals are just interested in spreading their genes, and could not care less about the planet. Gays seem to care more about social issues, and matters relating to the well being of humankind. They also tend to waste less materials. That has been my observation, and I am a biased observer given than I am straight. You sound like a bigot, not I. I would preffer my child to be gay any time, especially now that the uncivilized masses are more willing to accept Gay people in their midst.

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