In this post, I will be using terms that will be as broad as possible to include everybody, even if they do not identify within that given category, for instance, MTF, FTM, nonbinary, etc. Also, I am not trying to make you think that my way is the best and only way. There are possibly better and safer ways than the one I am going to describe to you.
I spend a lot of my time researching natural alternatives to allopathic (conventional) medicine. Of course allopaths and non-allopaths try to outdo one another on the treatments that they think work best, but as we all know, the pharmaceutical industry is primarily interested in making better profits and improving functionality without any care of how it affects the environment. A friend of mine conducted some catalysis experiments to help them determine if certain pesticides were causing more harm than others. As naturopaths, osteopaths, and chiropractors, we believe that the person is a lot more important than the profit we get from prescribing drugs and surgeries. We try to have a more holistic approach to finding the patient’s needs and wants. We also have naturopathic psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, etc that work along the same lines as allopaths, but they are more open-minded. Of course, there may be overlaps, but allopaths have set up strict rules for transpeople to complete their transition. That’s why there are some people who choose to modify certain parts of their characteristics while leaving others intact. For example, a transwoman may not necessarily feel that giving birth is important, or having PMS for that matter. They are just happy with their body shape and size. For others, however, it certainly makes a difference. I asked myself, why. I’ve been looking for ways for cisgender women to be more immune to cramps and morning sickness by using the proper hormones, nutrients and gene modifications to balance the systems in the body. A simple and natural endogenous analgesic like oxytocin can help relieve the cramping caused by the uterus during menarche, just like it does during labour. Our Western diet consists of foods that are filled with poison, because a lot of what we eat affects our babies, particularly additives, preservatives, and saturated trans-fat, which then becomes a matter of epigenetics. This simply means above genetics. For those of you who aren’t familiar with genetics in general, think about the following concept. What we eat, that is to say, the animal meat we consume also has DNA and proteins, which gets in the way of ours. This could have impact on future gametes (a fertilised egg). Every human is equipped with a book of life, which contains two parts, each with twenty-three chapters. Each chapter contains a lot of stories. This illustrates the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes, one from each biological parent. However, not all the stories are being read in order. If they were, we would be a mess because not only would we be extremely healthy, but we would also be prone to contracting every virus and bacteria that was out there. It would be useless to study epigenetics with a DNA model, because of the lack in histones or something that could not be methylated. So, we could probably 3D print some epigenetic models to help us predict our future. I believe enzymatic things like genes are more constant, and they are there to differentiate humans from one another in general. The chemical messengers are meant to change people based on their environment. That is why people say that plastics are generally bad for you because they contain endocrine disrupters.
Now, when we eat certain foods, or when we are exposed to radiation, take certain medications, etc, we tend to change the layout or structure of these stories in random chapters, which can be genetic or epigenetics. According to http://www.evolutionofmedicinesummit.com/, the most ideal approach would be to optimise the stories of bliss (the good and healthy genes) and minimise the tragic (unhealthy) genes to treat chronic illnesses.
I’d like to discuss some methods that researchers are working on now and in a couple of future posts, one of which you can read more at the following URL: http://www.advocate.com/news/daily-news/2011/07/21/researchers-discover-sex-change-gene
First of all, let’s talk about whether someone is ready to transition. For several decades, the only way we could know for sure was if we got proof from a therapist. As a transhumanist (someone who supports the movement of human enhancement), I believe there is a better, more efficient manner to figure this out. By using things people have imployed in science fiction, we can make this science fact. It’s called using augmented reality, which is similar to the Voik Kampff Empathy Test invented by Philip K. Dick. This uses not only psychological diagnoses, but it also measures a person’s neuroendocrine system as they manipulate the images and language concepts in their simulated environment, which would evoke various emotional responses. The neuroendocrine system refers to the array of hormones, neuromodulators and neurotransmitters, which are specifically devoted to the development of one’s personality, such as emotion and intellect. We can also use memory implantation or oneirology (study of dreams) to work out a simulation of a person living in the body of the opposite sex while they were sleeping. This type of dream-state would be used to tell us how good their problem-solving skills were by analysing what they did in that dream. I believe that these practices would ensure a better chance that a person would not regret their transition, and that this could replace the need for a lengthy real-life test. You can learn more about that in an earlier post.
Now, onto the methods researchers are using to improve sex reassignment therapy. For many years, people, mostly allopaths, have been working on regenerating parts of existing tissue, or using tissue from embryonic stem cells, which has become controversial. What has also become more controversial is modifying the genes of each cell, but without this modification, the cell would not be able to divide into the desired shape (mitosis). With current understanding and technology, we can take a patient’s tissue during a biopsy (for males, a small penile, scrotal, testicular, or prostate sample), using those cells, and look at the chromosomes. If you remember from your biology class, each cell in the human body is equipped with forty-six chromosomes — a pair of twenty-three from one of the parents, and another pair of twenty-three from the other parent. Biological females generally have XX-chromosomes while biological males generally have XY-chromosomes (named so because of the Y-shape), though some people may have an extra in some intersexed conditions. Only biological females can give the offspring mitochondria, which is why you might hear something like a child having three parents. It is because scientists have started using donor mitochondria if it turns out the mother’s own supply is diseased in some way. First comes the organelle, then the cells, then the tissue, then the organ, the organ system, and finally, the organism. There are a lot of organ systems in the body, such as the skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, digestive, and endocrine system. All these systems communicate with one another and work together to keep the organism living. This is done by all the thousands of genes that instruct the cells that die and divide to carry out these instructions through hormones, enzymes, and other chemical messengers. When we have a person who wants to change their sex, we can artificially introduce a smorgasbord of hormones to bring out secondary sex characteristics (males assigned female at birth would develop hair growth, deepening of the voice, more muscle development, etc). As a naturopath, we try to look at ways to get the body to produce its own set of hormones by using supplements. And, as new scientists, we want to develop personalised pharmaceuticals based on a person’s DNA to maximise health and wellness and minimising side effects based on their metabolism and other things.
One interesting phenomenon I recently came across in a speculative science novel was how chromosomes could be manipulated. It made me wonder if an X-chromosome was made up of two Y-chromosomes that have been fused together. Think about this for a minute. If you draw a Y, which would look like a vertical line drawn on the Y-axis, hence the name, with two points on one end pointing up, and then the Y would start shrinking, but two more points would sprout from the other end of the line. The result would look like this: four points with a line running through the middle. Now, what if we made this line smaller and smaller until all four points met. It would look like an X-chromosome. The question is, would it be as functional as the one that formed naturally? Would it be possible to take one of the X-chromosomes and make one pair of the two points to shrink and a line to grow in its place until it looked like a Y? All of this could be done with nanotechnology or some form of genetic modification if we can’t use synthetic chromosomes, which is why it would be a lot more difficult. Still, we should not give up hope. You could possibly kill two birds with one stone. I recently learned that the Y-chromosome was dying out, and that people with two X-chromosomes are more genetically stable. So, if we wanted to repair x-linked diseases, we’d have to use a donor chromosome or something.
Many researchers believe that if we could snip out a tiny bit of tissue from a certain sex, we could find some way to change one of the sex chromosomes, and hope that those cells can divide into the new shape specified by the alleles that were changed. You must also remember that it will be nearly impossible to change every single sex chromosome in the human body, so researchers would have to come up with a virus or use nanobots, which I will discuss below, to change everything in the body. If this is not feasible, researchers hope to use a 3-D printer and or a special mould for the cell to grow in. It is very hard to grow blood vessels right now because those vessels would need to be grown into the right shape and put in the right place at the time of insertion. Plus, there are some blood vessels and capillaries, and even veins and arteries, that are as thin as the finest hair. I’ve wondered how we could reconnect nerves, especially those that were not meant to regenerate. Could we use a sophisticated form of electrocautery and soldering?
Researchers have had success with regenerating phalluses from rabbits, and the results were that they could use the new penis to reproduce. This brings hope to injured veterans and trans-identified males. As a quick note: We as naturopaths believe that many surgeries are unnecessary, and are instead used to rip you off. That’s why I believe that having SRS with an artificial organ is simply for cosmetic reasons, but it will hold no true function whatsoever. According to http://transhumanoid.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/real-vagina-grown-in-incubator/, not only could researchers grow vaginas, but they could also grow noses as well. This could be useful to just replace a new nose instead of spending a lot of effort to reduse a long nose. Update: After having read some articles on the Intersex Society of North America, I learned that our bodies actually develop side by side and then fuse together… like when you feel the seams on a plastic toy. In addition, I learned that all foetuses start out with the Mullerian (female) and Wolffian (male) ducts. So, if we could isolate these at the embryonic phase, we could give them our immune system so that when we transplant them, our body will recognise it as an ally rather than an invader. By the way, if you have a male reproductive system, then perhaps you’ve noticed a thin line running from the top of your scrotum all the way to your anus. If this makes you feel any better, that actually used to be your vulva and labias when you were still in the womb. This line is called a raphe.
In reference to the post on Advocate, scientists have located a gene that could have a potential to changing the target cells. In order for adult males to maintain their sex characteristics, a gene called DMRT1 is responsible to oversee the division of said cells. If this gene is removed or replaced with a female gene, the male cells would start dying out and they would be replaced by female ones. The same concept applies to females. If the Foxl2 gene is removed or replaced with the male gene, it would cause the female cells to change to male ones. This seems to affect the gonads such as the testes and ovaries, making it so that a person could stop taking hormones artificially. This breakthrough was definitely surprising, for many in the scientific community assumed that once two chromosomes were paired, that was it. This is no longer the case from what new research shows. Unfortunately, these genetically-modified cells won’t be able to produce egg or sperm yet. More research is needed. This will also give us a chance to know how animals and other species get their ability to change sex. If you’ve read Parrotfish by Ellen Witlinger, then you’ll have a better idea of what I was talking about. There are also certain species that have parthenogenic capabilities.
Now, the other kind of study, which won’t be available for quite some time, would involve scientists who will be working on a new line of practice called nanoscience–nano meaning below the microscale and above the atomic scale. It is hoped that one day, we can inject these tiny little machines called nanobots or nanosubmarines into humans and use them to manipulate the person into just about anything you could imagine that you could do in this universe, just by using microsurgeries. They can also be used as a vector or as a screening for all kinds of things. For example, if you were lost in the wilderness and did not have access to your medicines, you could have them delivered to you from within. Or, if you suddenly had a cardiac arrest, the nanobots would signal your location to nearby places so that someone can be dispatched. Nanosubmarines would be a lot more interesting, though, especially because of how they will navigate in the body. It could be possible to shrink bones to make a person smaller for people who wanted to be shorter, or make them grow for people who wanted to be taller. I once wathced an episode of the Magic Schoolbus, where everyone in it had shrunken to the cellular level. That could be a place to start. All these decisions have to be made by the person alone, as it is no one else’s decision but theirs.
For people assigned male at birth looking to augment their breasts or reduce fat without surgery such as liposuction and breast augmentation, several new lines of practices have broken through. The breast-augmentation procedure is actually not new, although the technology to use it is. This type of engineering is known as tissue expansion. According to http://www.mybrava.com, the Brava system allows one to expand their breasts, which would signal for further mitotic growth. This technology is also being used for penile enhancement by using pumps and vacuums. This could be useful in areas of restorative surgery, such as creating folds for the female genitals. As for fat and cellulite reduction, cool-sculpting (cryolipolysis) was recently introduce. It works by using controlled-cooling and a suction cup to freeze fat cells underneath the skin. Those frozen fat cells would die out and be converted to waste that the body would excrete over a period of time. You could also remove fat from one area of the body and transfer it to other areas, or donate it to people in need, or give it to medical science so scientists can develop new ideas for future research.
Finally, cryogenics, which is to say, freezing the body in extremely cold temperatures for preservation). If for some reason you end up dying and current technology cannot save you, you could be frozen until your entire metabolism stopped without your body decomposing. Actually, some of this is being done when major surgeries, such as heart transplants, are performed. I encourage you to look at Alcor Life Extensions http://www.alcor.org/ for further detail. Suffice it to say that as naturopaths, we think that brain transplants are a bit too extreme. If a person were in a terrible car accident or if they had terminal illness, the day would come when we would find the proper balance to increase growth factors to keep cells from dying due to lack of nutrients and or from being taken over by infected ones, like cancer. That’s why studying the evolution and the derivatives of infectious diseases are important. Be careful, though, for the world is currently overpopulated, and some people would argue that it was a good thing that certain diseases would never be cured. If they were, we’d have more people use up a lot of resources than the earth can withstand. Some day, it would be possible to put humans into hibernation as well, like when going out into deep space. Then of course, there is the possibility of cloning to start fresh.
One thing that disappoints me as a naturopathic advocate is that they don’t do as much research as conventional researchers do. I think that if we could be more flexible, we could change the world for the better. I hope you have found this post useful, and as always, comments are welcome. This will be part of a series, so look out for subsequent posts about some of the specifics, mostly aimed at people assigned male at birth.