Tuesday, December 11, 2007
University Of Illinois-Chicago Study Indicates That Fruit Flies May Provide The Key To Reparative Therapy For Homosexuals And Other Deviants
A new study is providing insights into the genetics of homosexuality -- at least in fruit flies. Full story published December 10th, 2007 in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have discovered a gene involved in homosexual behavior in the tiny flies. They also found a way to turn homosexuality on and off with drugs. They've turned straight fruit flies gay. According to UIC biologist David Featherstone, humans have a similar gene, but it's unclear what effect, if any, the gene has on homosexual behavior in people. Featherstone and his colleagues described their findings in the journal "Nature Neuroscience". Click HERE to view abstract; the article itself is available only to paying subscribers.
After a century of study on fruit flies, researchers have accumulated a vast storehouse of genetic knowledge. UIC researchers were using fruit flies to study muscular dystrophy when they discovered a gene they call "gender blind," or GB. Flies with a mutated form of the GB gene are bisexual. It appears they're unable to distinguish chemical smells, called pheromones, that tell whether other flies are male or female.
"The GB mutant males treated other males exactly the same way normal male flies would treat a female," Featherstone said. "They even attempted copulation."
The GB mutation appears to strengthen nerve cell junctions called synapses. This causes flies to over-react to pheromones. As a result, they "broaden their horizons and go for both males and females," Featherstone said.
Researchers tested this idea by adding a drug to the flies' apple juice. The drug weakened the synapses. So within a few hours, flies with the GB mutation stopped engaging in homosexual behavior. Conversely, researchers gave heterosexual male flies a drug that strengthened their synapses. Sure enough, these male flies soon were courting males as well as females.
"It was amazing," Featherstone said. "I never thought we'd be able to do that sort of thing, because sexual orientation is supposed to be hard-wired. This fundamentally changes how we think about this behavior."
Commentary: This should not rule out the possibility of some "hard-wiring", though. Back in April 2006, there was a post about researchers Dr. Larry Cahill and Dr. Lisa Kirkpatrick (link to Dr. Kirkpatrick from the Majority Rights Blog), who scanned the brains of 36 healthy men and 36 healthy women to determine the findings. Cahill already knew that the sees use different sides of their brains to process and store long-term memories, base upon his earlier work. The study focused on activity in the amygdala, a cluster of neurons found on both sides of the brain and involved for both sexes in hormone and other involuntary functions, as well as emotions and perceptions. He also has shown that a drug called Propranolol can block memory differently in men and women. The scans also showed that men’s and women’s amygdalas are polar opposites in terms of connections with other parts of the brain. In men, the right amygdala is more active and shows more connections with other brain regions. In women, the same is true of the left amygdala. Scientists still have to find out if one’s sex also affects the wiring of other regions of the brain. It could be that while men and women have basically the same hardware, it’s the software instructions and how they are put to use that makes the sexes seem different.
The implications of the Cahill-Kirkpatrick research are that the brain of a male homosexual may present the same amygdalic signature as the brain of a female heterosexual. If this is the case, then this implies "hard-wiring". The question is, can that "hard-wiring" be re-routed? The UIC research with fruit flies seems to imply the possibility that it could be chemically "re-wired". And if we can do this with homosexuals, could we also do this with pedophiles? Society frantically searches for more ways to protect itself against pedophiles, at great cost to the public treasury and an increasing cost of constitutionality. Anything we could do to reduce those costs without sacrificing public safety would be worthwhile.
The "nature-vs.-nurture" debate on homosexuality will continue for the foreseeable future. Evidence suggests both are possible. For example, prison homosexuality is much more opportunistic; male prisoners turn to homosexuality primarily because of the absence of females; they then return to females exclusively after release. Some high-profile homosexuals such as Anne Heche, who was Ellen deGeneris' former squeeze, not only broke free of the lifestyle, but married a man. Even though her marriage has since dissolved, she continues to be interested in men. While this might not work for all gays, it might work for enough of them.
Do we really have the heart to condemn gays to a lifetime of this type of perversion without at least offering them a way out? The censorship of reparative therapy by the gay rights movement condemns gays to lifetime homosexuality simply for the sake of preserving and expanding the lobby's political power. And to include gays in any "enumerated list of protected classes" for hate crimes legislation simply perpetuates the problem, not only by deferring the motivation to confront it, but to actually reward the gay community for its failure to confront the problem.