What Is Parthenogenesis?
Parthenogenesis comes from the Greek parthenos, meaning "virgin" and genesis, meaning "creation." It has been called "the virgin birth." It is a form or reproduction that doesn't require the egg to be fertilized. It is also called asexual reproduction and has been observed in lower species and in some lower plants. Some of these species include aphids, ants, rotifers and amphibians, lizards, amphibians, some snakes and fish.
A man named Charles Bonnet, a Swiss naturalist and philosopher, first discovered parthenogenesis in the 18th century around the 1740's. When he began is work Bonnet used spindle-tree aphids and attempted to explain the phenomenon. In the 1900's, a man named Jacques Loeb, a German-born American biologist, achieved the first case of artificial parthenogenesis. It has since been tested in nearly all-major groups of animals. Artificial parthenogenesis has been used to study animals and plants and has also been experimented with on humans. To date there has not been a single case of successful assessment with humans. It has been found that when a female species reproduces without the fertilization of the egg the outcome is not "normal." These species will look very much like their mother because they have nearly identical genes as the mother. And siblings will also have traits that are characteristic of identical twins. Much later in life, Bonnet's eyesight began declining and he realized that he would have to consider the philosophical consequences of the discovery he had made.
Human parthenogenesis has been a controversial issue. In essence it is the same as cloning and if human embryos can be made to multiply using asexual methods it wouldn't be necessary to use stem cells that have to be created by fertilizing an egg with male sperm. The Roslin Institute in England, the same institute that cloned Dolly the sheep, has made its first attempt at human parthenogenesis. The goal was to create stem cells. "At the moment we have not managed to get stem cells from these embryos but that continues to be our ambition," Roslin's Dr. Paul De Sousa told the British Association's Festival of Science in the Irish capital.
Parthenogenesis has its advantages and disadvantages. Using asexual reproduction is much quicker and easier than sexual reproduction. But, asexual production doesn't allow any room for variation in genetics. As mentioned before the results of parthenogenesis will have exactly the same genetic make up as its mother. If the mother produces more than one species these will also have the same genetic make up. Because of the disadvantages of parthenogenesis it remains to be a controversial issue.