Female pseudohermaphroditism refers to an individual with ovaries and external genitalia resembling those of a male. Male pseudohermaphroditism refers to an individual with testes and external genitalia resembling those of a female. In some cases, external sex organs associated with pseudohermaphroditism appear intermediate between a typical clitoris and penis. Thus, pseudohermaphroditism is sometimes not identified until puberty or adulthood.
The term contrasts with true hermaphroditism, a condition describing an individual with both female and male reproductive organs.
Sex is determined by chromosomes during fertilization. In the early stages of human development, a human embryo has the precursors of female (paramesonephric or Müllerian ducts) and male (mesonephric ducts or Wolffian) gonads. If a Y chromosome is lacking, or defective as seen in Swyer syndrome, the embryo will reabsorb the mesonephric ducts and proceed with paramesonephric ducts, which give rise to ovaries. The Y chromosome contains a sex-determining region called the SRY gene. Thus, the developmental plan of the embryo is altered only if this gene is present and functional.
Mutations affecting the androgen receptor (AR) gene may cause either complete or partial androgen insensitivity syndrome. Androgens are a group of hormones which regulate the development and maintenance of male characteristics. Between 8 and 12 weeks, human male fetuses become externally distinct as androgens enlarge the phallus and produce a penis with a urethra and scrotum.
Persistent Müllerian duct syndrome is a form of pseudohermaphroditism, developed through Müllerian-inhibiting factor defects. In such instances, duct derivatives are present in males, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and upper vagina.
John Money is perhaps the best-known early researcher in this area. His doctoral thesis was titled Hermaphroditism: An Inquiry into the Nature of a Human Paradox, and awarded by Harvard University in 1952.
- (DoDI) 6130.03, 2018, section 5, 13f and 14m
- Disorders of sex development
- Intersex medical interventions
- Diophantus of Abae
- Callon of Epidaurus
- Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome
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