The discovery of a small community in the Dominican Republic, where some males are born looking like girls and only grow penises at puberty, has led to the development of a blockbuster drug that has helped millions of people
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In the 1970s, Dr Julianne Imperato-McGinley, discovered that they have a genetic condition that causes a deficiency in an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone into dihydro-testosterone.
Thus, male external & internal genitalia do not develop despite the presence of the Y chromosome & SRY gene, and they appear female when they are born.
At puberty, a surge of testosterone causes their body to develop internal & external male genitalia alongside secondary male characteristics.
The process of sex differentiation ensures that human fetuses are born with distinct external & internal genitalia (which is used to assign their sex at birth).
However, in a small town in the Dominican Republic, a community known as the "Guevedoces" (translating to "penis at twelve") undergo a different process of sex differentiation.
Many of them are brought up girls due to the absence a penis & testes & the presence of a vagina.
When puberty approaches, some of their male sexual organs grow, and their biological sex is reassigned as male according to their genitalia.
A final interesting observation that Imperato-McGinley made was that these boys, despite being brought up as girls, almost all showed strong heterosexual preferences. She concluded prenatal hormones play a bigger role in the development of sexual orientation compared to external influences.
This process of sex organ development through chromosomal & hormonal mechanisms is known as sex differentiation.
Another thing that Imperato-McGinley discovered was that the Guevedoces tend to have small prostates.
This observation led to the development of the best-selling drug, finasteride, which blocks the action of 5-alpha-reductase, mimicking the lack of dihydro-testosterone seen in the Guevedoces.
It took thousands of years for the European culture to realise that a child is not an object but a human being.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in Emile, or On Education (1762), that "nature wants children to be children before they are men." He did not see children as humans but appealed to parents to look after their offspring. However, he did not take his own ideas to heart and abandoned his offspring at birth.
A child's pre-teen and teen years are a high-emotion transitory period. This is due to shifting classmates, social pressure, multiple classrooms and a period of many 'firsts'.
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