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Scientists have discovered the genetic secret of immaculate conception: the male is simply not needed

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
The birth of children without the participation of a man is not yet a question, but experiments on flies have proven the effectiveness of the method

Scientists for the first time managed to change the mechanism of fertilization at the genetic level, teaching the female egg to develop into an embryo without the role of sperm of the male. The study showed that this ability is also passed on to the next generation.

This is stated in an article published in the scientific journal Current Biology. The research was conducted for 6 years with the participation of more than 220,000 fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster.

In most animals, reproduction occurs sexually when a female egg is fertilized by a male sperm cell. Virgin birth, or parthenogenesis, is a process during which an egg is able to develop independently into an embryo without fertilization by a sperm cell.

The mechanism has been understood by scientists for a long time, but to find the genetic cause and "graft" it to a species that traditionally reproduces sexually, scientists managed for the first time.

To achieve the results, the researchers first isolated the genomes of two strains of another species of fruit fly called Drosophila mercatorum. One strain needs males to reproduce, while the other is only able to reproduce by virgin birth. They subsequently identified genes that were turned on or off when the flies reproduced without males. Once they had this data, they applied genetic engineering to Drosophila melanogaster and it worked.

In the course of the research, it turned out that flies born in this way also gained the ability to give birth to offspring without the participation of the male. At the same time, they did not lose the ability to give birth traditionally.

Scientists said that the immaculately born offspring was not an exact clone of the mother, but was genetically very similar. It is also noted that only female flies were born this way.

"We are the first to show that it is possible to engineer a virgin birth in animals - it was very exciting to see a virgin fly produce an embryo capable of developing into an adult and then repeat the process," said the paper's lead author, University of Cambridge researcher Dr. Alexis Sperling.

The scientist also reported that females with genetic changes waited for a male for half their life - about 40 days - and only then gave birth to children on their own.

The experimenters also said that only 1-2% of the second generation of female flies with virgin birth ability gave birth to offspring. This happened only when there were no males around. Otherwise, they mated and reproduced in the usual way.

The researchers believe that switching to virgin births may be a survival strategy for animals on the brink of extinction. In their opinion, only one generation of immaculate births can help preserve a species.

As SciTechDaily notes, females of some egg-laying animals, including birds, lizards and snakes, can naturally switch to giving birth without males. But virgin births in animals that normally reproduce sexually are rare, often only in zoos, and usually occur when a female has been isolated for a long time and has little hope of finding a mate.

Earlier OBOZREVATEL also told about the fact that scientists want to resurrect the mysterious dodo bird, which became extinct hundreds of years ago.

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