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Scientists have discovered the genetic secret to immaculate conception: the male just isn't needed

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Scientists have discovered the genetic secret to immaculate conception: the male just isn't needed

For the first time, scientists have managed to change the mechanism of fertilization at the genetic level, teaching a female egg to develop into an embryo without the participation of male sperm. The study showed that this ability is also passed on to future generations.

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

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

The mechanism has been understood by scientists for a long time, but this is the first time that scientists have been able to find the genetic cause and "implant" it in a species that traditionally reproduces sexually.

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

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

The scientists said that the offspring born in this way were not an exact clone of the mother, but were genetically very similar. It is also noted that only female flies were born in 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 that can develop to adulthood and then repeat the process," said Dr. Alexis Sperling, the main author of the article, a researcher at the University of Cambridge.

The scientist also said that females with genetic changes waited for a male for half of their lives - 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 the ability to give birth virgin gave birth to offspring. This happened only when there were no males nearby. Otherwise, they mated and reproduced in the usual way.

Researchers believe that the transition to virgin birth may be a survival strategy for animals on the verge of extinction. In their opinion, only one generation of virgin births can help preserve the species.

As SciTechDaily notes, females of some egg-laying animals, including birds, lizards, and snakes, can naturally switch to giving birth without the participation of males. However, virgin births in animals that usually 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 reported that scientists want to resurrect the mysterious dodo bird, which became extinct hundreds of years ago.

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