This past Sunday, August 21, the Associated Press released a video documenting the historic birth of triplets to a gay South African couple. The two fathers are Theo and Christo Menelaou, and for the first time in the history of South Africa this gay couple gave birth to triplets through surrogacy. Despite consultation from doctors who advised the couple to terminate the pregnancy once one of the eggs had split, resulting in triplets, Theo and Christo fortunately now have three healthy babies. Congratulations, Theo and Christo!
News sources including the Huffington Post have since produced reports describing this historic moment, however some of this content has been misleading. The NY Daily News in particular states that the children share “…DNA from both men.” We would like to provide clarification on this matter, and point out that the DNA shared between the triplets are from the surrogate, not both of the fathers.
Each baby’s DNA is from the surrogate and one (1) father
Two eggs were provided from the surrogate for each man to fertilize through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). This means that the gay couple chose a healthy surrogate to provide two eggs with the original intention to have two babies. One man fertilized one of the eggs with his sperm, while the other did the same to the remaining egg. During the surrogate’s pregnancy, one of the eggs split into two, producing identical twins (who had DNA from the surrogate and one of the men).
This means that two of the babies (the identical twins) have the DNA from one of the men, while the remaining baby has the DNA from the other man. Due to the fact that one parent constitutes only 50% of the DNA composition of a baby, the surrogate’s DNA is the only biological commonality between the identical twins and the other baby. Therefore, none of the babies have DNA from both men, Theo and Christo.
No gay couple has had babies with shared DNA (yet)
No gay (or lesbian) couple has had babies with DNA from both members of the couple so far. This is because men do not naturally produce egg cells, and women do not naturally produce sperm cells, both of which are needed to produce a fertilized egg that will develop into an embryo. However, many scientists suggest that we will experience technological advances in the near future that will allow gay couples to do so.
Scientists say two men could conceive
Calum Mackellar, a scientist in biochemistry at Edinburgh University in Scotland, was interviewed by ABC News regarding the possibility of two men conceiving children. Although this method is not yet available and is expected to take a few years to further develop, it is predicted that two men could conceive through the creation of a “male egg.” Through this process, scientists could remove the DNA from an existing egg cell and insert the genetic makeup (DNA) from one of the men. This egg could then be fertilized using the sperm from the other man, resulting in an embryo that shares genetic makeup from both men.
Fertilizing and growing an embryo from a male egg with the DNA from the other man would still require help from a surrogate mother, who would agree to bring the child through a full pregnancy term.
We look forward to these incredible scientific advances in the near future, granting gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to give birth to children with shared genetic makeup!