Steins;Gate – 10

So it’s been confirmed that Ruka has indeed changed from male to female through a rather simple D-mail.  While many out there are probably confused and skeptical about such a process, I can help offer my ideas on how such a concept may have happened.  Using some of developmental biology background, I can help clarify the potential reality of such a change.

Okay, first off, let’s examine Ruka’s appearance from both before and after the sex-change.  Both Rukas are similar in appearance, the slender body frame with short hair and a round face.  In fact, they’re identical.  We can assume that both Rukas are the same genetically, meaning it was the same genetic material from both mother and father.  That likely means it was the same sperm and egg that produced both Rukas, otherwise, through recombination (where chromosomes exchange various sequences between each other) and independent assortment (the ability for different combinations of chromosomes to end up within each haploid cell), we’d see a completely different Ruka.    After all, there are clues in the text to reach this conclusion.

One of the major reasons to assume this is that the text, directed to the mother, specified to eat veggies for a healthy baby.  Well, when would you start eating vegetables for a baby?  Most likely after you realize you’re pregnant would you start eating vegetables for a healthy child, several weeks after development has begun.  In fact, the step of implantation, where the blastocyst attaches to the wall of the uterus, happens roughly a week after conception.  There is the off-chance that the text could have been sent before the fertilization but that means she must’ve been on that vegetable regiment for a while.  And even then, a simple message like that would not have affected ovulation or changed which sperm was the chosen one.  Assuming these to be true, then we have the same Ruka, genetically, in both worlds.  Now how is it possible that one is male and one is female?

Alright, so according to my explanation, Ruka is the same genetically in both timelines, so how is one Ruka male and the other female?  Sexual differentiation begins roughly 4 weeks into development, when the SRY gene on the Y chromosome promotes the differentiation of the gonads into testes.  Following that step, the testes produces testosterone, the hormone more commonly attributed toward masculinity and male-features, such as muscle development and facial hair, among many others.  Testosterone is an essential factor in developing male sexual organs, and sometimes a deficiency can lead to something unusual.  Without testosterone, we are faced with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, a condition where male sexual organs fail to develop and female external features are present instead.  That way, the child is genetically male (XY) but with the physical features of a female instead, leading for the child to be thought of as a female their whole life (until puberty).

So why did this timeline’s Ruka develop into a female rather than a male?   After all, it’s the same sperm and egg and now we have to find a way to disable the testosterone production to a severe degree (virtually zero hormones) to lead to this syndrome.  Well, here are my thoughts.  Perhaps the text affected the mother in the way it was intended so that she consumed more vegetables.  Vegetables are notably much lower in cholesterol than meats and cholesterol is the starting block in the biosynthesis of many hormones in the human body, including testosterone.  I propose the idea that Ruka’s mother severely cut down on her intake of dietary cholesterol, which in turn reduced the amount of testosterone our developing Ruka could produce.  Keep in mind the old, male Ruka that we knew and loved was already highly feminine, leading me to believe he already had low amounts of testosterone in his body his whole life.  Perhaps the cessation of meats from the mother’s diet combined with Ruka’s testosterone deficiency resulted in a child with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.  While highly unfeasible that these combined efforts would be enough to change the development of the sexual organs, it is theoretically possible.  And after all, it’s a story, and what fun would the story be if it were average and commonplace.  This is Steins;Gate we’re talking about!

Additionally, there could be other explanations, too.  Suppose the message sent back in time had a different effect, one where Ruka’s mother behaved differently.  After all, the text simply told her to eat veggies for a healthy baby; we don’t know if she actually did that.  For all we know, she could’ve thought that for a healthy baby, you could enroll in a medical research project where they inject some morpholino (a molecule designed to knock out a gene and yes, I have a very heavy background in science) into her that would prevent testosterone from being produced for the baby, thus leaving us with our female-appearing, genetically XY Ruka.  But that’s even less likely.  And there are other possibilities, too, but it doesn’t matter now.

Hopefully I was able to make sense in describing how I theorize how Ruka could retain the same exact physical appearance yet be male in one universe and female in the other.  I doubt the writers spent time thinking this up, unless there were some people with a medical, clinical, biochemical, or a developmental biological background on this anime’s staff (not likely with all the physicists there, right?).  But I thought it was a fun exercise after seeing people trying to explain the drastic and shocking change of our beloved Ruka.

The tenth episode was enjoyable, especially since we spent more time with Suzuha who is one of the more fascinating and likable female characters of Steins;Gate.  Her story is seems to have the most substance and importance of all the female cast and her personality is both serious and entertaining.  I always like how she throws in jabs at Kurisu in her conversations with Okabe, such as asking about the torture from Kurisu or recalling how the only problem at the all-night party was Kurisu’s mere presence.

Also that text that Okabe got saying he’s being watched… oh how I love you Steins;Gate, for putting something like that for only ten seconds of screentime and then moving onto something else.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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  1. #1 by tomphile on June 11, 2011 - 8:34 AM

    Though you say that Suzuha’s story is of more importance than the other female members, we’ve only really begun to delve into her backstory in this one episode. Given that she’s come back to Okabe and even “joined” his secret lab group, it remains to be seen whether or not she’s going to receive any more screen time for her past.

    • #2 by avvesione on June 11, 2011 - 1:17 PM

      That’s true but from what we’ve seen so far, I still think she’ll be the most important. You see her in the first episode on the roof after the satellite crashed, meaning she’s directly connected to that incident and likely is a time-traveler herself (one that can survive the jellification) especially since we saw the satellite disappear in this episode after Okabe couldn’t find her. Also, we know she has a great animosity toward Kurisu and, in my opinion, is the prime suspect in her murder, so that will be developed a bit. Other than that, I don’t know what else there is to know about Suzuha but those two storylines seem to be two of the most important in the whole series. Then again, it’s just my opinion and things will surely change, but I see her being the most important female, especially if she’s the key to fixing all the alterations Okabe has managed to survive through.

  2. #3 by Joojoobees on June 12, 2011 - 10:51 PM

    Very interesting. What are your thoughts on why the satellite crashed in the world-line shift? Assuming Suzuha landed safely the first time and killed Christina, why did she crash (and thus fail) when Okabe caused the world-line shift in episode 1?

    • #4 by avvesione on June 12, 2011 - 11:35 PM

      To be honest, my theory only went skin-deep and I never begun to think beyond connecting the dots but you bring up some essential details that I overlooked. But since you asked, I might as well try to add onto my thoughts.

      I think the satellite crashed because it was necessary for Suzuha to leap through time to get to this era. I’m guessing the satellite carries with it whatever is necessary to transport humans through time unaffected and crashing it somehow was essential for Suzuha to go back through time to the present. As for why she failed the second time, I’ll toss out the idea that the message that Okabe sent went through the satellite’s equipment rather than the microwave (which I’m sure behaves quite differently) which affected Suzuha and Okabe rather than Okabe alone, thus affecting her enough to prevent Kurisu’s murder. I really don’t have a solid explanation for those details but I’m sure they’ll be answered sometime, probably later rather than sooner.

  3. #5 by Jon on June 13, 2011 - 8:21 AM

    A proposed mechanism: if Ruka’s zygote is genetically a trisomy XXY at chromosome 23, various stochastic events during development might lead to expression of either male or female phenotype (for example, an early mitotic nondysjunction with loss of the tetrasomic-23 daughter cell).

    • #6 by avvesione on June 13, 2011 - 9:41 AM

      I never considered the possibility of Klinefelter’s syndrome (actually did a small project on that in high school biology) but I always thought XXY would always grow male external organs and show slow mental development. Guess if there was a non-disjunction and loss of a chromosome then theoretically regions of the body could be XX while others would develop as XXYY. And that would also explain the low testosterone, too, for former male Ruka being fully XXY. So yeah, that’s a possible explanation for events. A friend of mine commented on the narrow-mindedness of my theory, so obviously there could be other explanations (like yours) on what happened with the limited information we’ve been provided.

      I’d love to see a kayotype of Ruka to see what’s going on but I already feel sorry for the character. When he was a male he was felt up by Kurisu and then molested by Okabe as a female. Maybe we should just leave the poor kid alone instead of trying to diagnose his condition lol…

      • #7 by Jon on June 13, 2011 - 10:21 AM

        How about a nondisjunction & loss of one daughter cell at the first mitotic division? Then the entire embryo would develop without the trisomy.

        OK, OK, I’ll stop ;D

        • #8 by avvesione on June 13, 2011 - 11:42 AM

          Sorry, I must’ve misinterpreted your idea. It’s possible that the first cleavage could’ve done that (but that’s a lot of cytoplasm/cellular machinery to lose that early) but that scenario seems more like a random event than an effect of the D-mail. What I’m trying to figure out is how that D-mail affected the mother that then resulted in the change of Ruka’s development. We don’t know the effect of the D-mail since we never actually go back in time but it did enough to change Ruka to a female.

  4. #9 by Lamperouge on June 13, 2011 - 2:50 PM

    The “veggies” text did not effect Ruka. Feriys-tans text effected Ruka. Your theory dis nt cover the actual text sent.

    • #10 by avvesione on June 13, 2011 - 3:07 PM

      Hmmmm, am I missing something? Feriys’s text was sent 10 years in the past and Ruka is 16, meaning Ruka would’ve already been six years old when Feriys’s D-mail arrived. The sex change was confirmed by Okabe after Feriys’s D-mail but I believe the change happened after Ruka’s D-mail. You can tell because Mayuri stops calling him Ruka-kun and calling her Ruka-chan.

  5. #11 by Nadezda on June 13, 2012 - 11:52 AM

    A bit late but as one who only recently stumbled onto Steins;Gate I wondered if, given the prominence of soy in the Asian diet, by having Ruka’s mother eat more veggies she may have also consumed more soy. Since soy can act as an estrogen could this have a “double whammy” effect with the reduced meat intake decreasing circulating testosterone and the soy increasing estrogen?

    • #12 by avvesione on June 14, 2012 - 1:01 PM

      Interesting, I did not know that. Looks like there are some actual clinical uses of using the phytoestrogens in soy products that with most of them being menopausal symtpoms, hypercholesteremia, and cancer. However, these phytoestrogens would only be really affecting the mother since these would be unlikely to cross the placenta and affect the developing Ruka meaning they’d have no affect on the sexual differentiation or feminization. If, by any chance they were (they could be recognized by some cellular receptors per chance since there isn’t much pharmacological data on soy-derived phytoestrogens) they’re about 1/100,000th the potency of estrodiol, so Ruka would been to be exposed to well beyond the toxic threshold of these estrogens to produced such a substantial effect as what we saw.

      So to your theory, I’d say no, mainly because the estrogens would be having their effect moreso on the mother than on Ruka himself. And even if some of it were to make it to Ruka, they’re really weak and stimulating hormone receptors. Hope that helps.

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