by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 25, 2007 in DNA and Disease
All parents wonder whether their unborn child will be a boy or girl. Some choose to find out early with the help of gender prediction DNA tests or ultrasound. But for one in 4,500 births, babies are born with a â€œdisorder of sexual development” (DSD)* in which their genitals are considered to be “intersex.” Five sex-assignment surgeries are performed in US hospitals each day.
Dr. Eric Vilain of UC Irvine is studying the genetics of sexual development. His lab has found 50 new gene candidates on multiple mice chromosomes that may be involved in differential sex expression. This is in addition to:
SRY male-determining gene on the Y chromosome
DAX1 female-determining gene on the X chromsome
- WNT4 female-determining gene on chromosome 1
Coincidentally, I am about to begin reading Middlesex, a fictional account of a hermaphrodite, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I wonder how my understanding of the book will be filtered through the knowledge of multiple genes affecting gender determination.
Have you read Middlesex? What did you think?
*Dr. Vilain and the Intersex Society of North America are working to have replace “hermaphrodite,” male or female “pseudohermaphrodite,” and “intersex” with “disorder of sexual development.”
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