Could Gene Therapy Provide an Alternative to HRT?

In 2009, researchers in Europe discovered that “shutting off” the FOXL2 gene in adult mice with the estrogen-blocking drug Tamoxifen turned females’ ovaries into testes within just three weeks.

The change was a thorough one; the altered organs were testes right down to the structure of their cells and their portfolio of active genes. They developed testosterone-secreting Leydig cells, which pumped out as much of the hormone as their counterparts in XY mice. They only fell short of actually producing sperm.
— Ed Yong, Not Exactly Rocket Science (Dec 2009)

The authors of the study believe this discovery could have important medical implications, but neglected to identify transgender men as potential beneficiaries. If the science applies to humans and the FOXL2 gene can disabled, this could provide an alternative to testosterone replacement for transgender men: gene therapy to turn ovaries into testosterone-producing testes.

28 Comments

  • Elisa says:

    Wow, fascinating. I wouldn’t want to be the first experimented on, but — wow.

  • Britton says:

    Hell I will be a lil white mouse for that study.

  • Jonathan says:

    i would signup for that!

  • Nic says:

    I am a transman. I would sign up for that study too! I have volunteered for scientific government studies and im sure it is no worse. It is a shame though that even when it comes to our money there is descrimination. Had this been a medicine for heart disease or to cure something that another medicine caused, it would already be on the market. There is already a man who successfully had a penis transplant as well. I dont know how fast I would sign up for secondhand “junk” but if its the only way… hey! Point is, it was done as well. They havent gone through with it as a good procedure because the guy didnt like the way it looked and his wife didnt either. Im just shaking my head. These are the kind of people that make it difficult for the rest of us who know what they want, to get it. As transmen, we have to go through “therapy” and be considered “crazy” with a disorder. The only “crazy” people are the ones trying to put others in a mold and a box, then trying to tell us how and when to live our lives.

  • Benjamin says:

    No doubt that at some point in the future that this technique could be used for us blokes. What I am wondering though is how this advancement would affect certain lower surgeries. I mean, if you wanted to go for this where your ovaries could be converted to testes, then a different type of hysterectomy would surely therefore need to be developed for the removal of the womb but keep the ovaries. A procedure of this sort might even eventually become mergered with scrotoplasty, and insert the “ovaries” into scrotum produced, as opposed to the prosthetics they use. The idea of such potential developments are very exciting indeed. Just makes you wish a little that you lived in the future.

  • Ray says:

    WOW even if I was the guinea pig I’d definately sign up for that study… guess I will be holding off on the bottom surgery for now, in hopes that studies like these continue.

  • pamela says:

    This is fantastic news for trans men.

  • Sean says:

    @Benjamin – Only a radical hysterectomy – not the more common total and subtotal hysterectomies – includes removing the ovaries (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hysterectomy#Types_of_hysterectomy). Sadly, I had a radical, so I can’t sign up to be a ‘lil white mouse.

  • dominic says:

    I would so do that study, I am a transman and all. I would love that to work for me.I would also like the penis transplant too,but that probably cost too much money and all.

  • ShipofFools says:

    But the mice were genetically engineered. I don’ think this can be done with normal mice?

  • Areyan says:

    @Benjamin – i’ve done extensive reading on this very procedure and it’s a TOTAL transition. that’s right… the clitoris should also figuratively grow properly into a penis and the womb will invert in some way, eventually fat redistribution over a few weeks would cause most human natal females to lose their breast tissue and for male hair growth patterns to start. the scrotum and testes actually would eventually start making sertoli (spelling?) cells which are the genetic material needed for sperm cell production. we could become fathers with this therapy if it was perfected for humans!

    i’d be ALL in for this if they found a way to make it painless for humans. i don’t believe transition this fast would happen without MAJOR pubertal pain. but i’m in.

  • Rhys says:

    @Areyan, if what you say is true i would be happy to volunteer for this! even with the pain! the chance of becoming a father would be an opportunity i couldnt pass up, as well as being almost fully bio male without surgery! that would be so worth it! Sign me up!

  • Ian says:

    @Areyan, could you please write a blog post or link me to the research that suggests a full transition? I’m extremely curious.

  • Max says:

    I’ll second that request to Areyan, I’d love to see that research. If there is a chance for that sort of thing, then if we could get the whole community onto it and contacting people, then something might actually be done.

    I’d certainly be willing to sign up!

  • Ian says:

    I’d be willing to help with contacting people, if I knew who to contact and how to promote the research.

  • Sasha says:

    I’d be willing to be sign up!

  • Chris says:

    I’d be all over that, pain or no pain. Please post some links to the research you read. It drives me nuts how whenever there’s any sort of research or science showing that something can be done that would be MAJOR for transpeople, we’re never mentioned. I can’t recall ever seeing anything mentioning transguys in any sort of research. What’s up with that?

  • Joshua says:

    I don’t mean to piss on the parade, but this research is a LONG way off from human testing, and that hinders on IF a research team would have any interest in trans health. Dr. Atala for example, who’s doing promising research into engineered tissues, has no apparent interest in applying his work to trans people. Plus, there would be significant ethical hurdles with any kind of genetic therapy. This is interesting stuff, without a doubt, but it’s a long shot to think there will be a sign up sheet for trans guys in our lifetimes.

  • Ian says:

    Maybe we could start a fund or group for the promoting of trans health research?

  • Orion says:

    The thing is, how would it affect a transman with an ovarian disorder. I myself have frequently occuring large ovarian cysts and insurance will likely be covering an oophorectomy before I’m 35… But if this were made available to another tman with the same problem, how would it affect them?

  • Orion says:

    If it turns ovaries into testicles, wouldn’t they still be in the wrong place? There is really no way that they could drop down in an adult body. I’m curious to know whether a combination of this gene therapy, maybe in conjunction with some stem cell replacement, could turn a clitoris into a full-size functioning penis, or something close to it.

  • Landon says:

    It’s too bad Joshua is probably right. =(

  • Andie says:

    Since they say T may effect your fertility, would taking T before this treatment alter the effects of it?

  • kris rieck says:

    I am interested in stem cell research; that has real promise for grow your own penis. I saw a news show on TV here in Portland Oregon where kids that left a pitbull out on the roof on a hotday caused the pits feet to get burned in the 3rd degree. A local vet applied stem cells to the burns and within 4 months, the paws and pads regrew as normal. Combine stem cells with T, with your own tissue and voila; penis. It’s possible in our lifetimes if stem cells are not kept away from us by people like Mitt Romney.

  • wesam says:

    Hi I’m Trans Man
    And I hope that this experience possible now
    I hope access to Dr. being such surgery
    What is the name of the doctor?
    . Is there an address or phone number or email or website?
    Please advise

  • wesam says:

    Concerning FOXL2 ?
    Please advise me how I communicate with a specialist doctor in this surgery

  • biologist says:

    The answer is yes, easily, just dont expect it to be cheap.

  • gia says:

    but will it work going in the opposite direction as well.

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