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Weird Science: Scientists Are Growing Herpes-Ridden Turtle Skin

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This Week in Weird Science: Sex will save your life, men! An active sex life will lower your risk of heart disease. That said, use protection because you wouldn’t want to end up like one of the green sea turtles in our second study, in which scientists have found a way to recreate a life-threatening herpes virus in green sea turtles. The hope is to find a cure and save the species. The nightmare: Extinction. Finally, researchers in Mexico have noticed that city finches treat cigarette butts like mustard gas, using the toxins to kill ticks and protect their chicks. It’s just a shame that birds are now chain-smokers.

Men, sex will save your heart.

Keep your sex-life busy, and your heart will do the rest.

A new study from the National Defense Medical Center in Taiwan found that a busy sex life will save a man’s life. The researchers noticed that men who had sex at least twice per week had significantly lower levels of the serum homocysteine in their blood—homocysteine is a known contributor to various cardiovascular diseases.

“Decreased sexual frequency correlated with higher homocysteine levels in a nationally represented sample of U.S. adults, especially men; this might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or other atherothrombotic events,” said the study.

The analysis of 2,267 Americans between the ages of 20 and 59 years old, asked, “In the past 12 months, about how many times have you had vaginal or anal sex?” It probably should have included if hands count.

While the study found sexually active men to be at a lower risk for heart issues, it did not factor other, orgasm-inducing options. Perhaps men who masturbate more have healthier levels of homocysteine. Or is there a secretion in the vagina that levels the protein? What about anal sex? Or same sex?

It’s almost impossible to tell what truly decreases homocysteine levels based on this research alone. The scientists merely found a correlation between regular sex and lower levels.

“A relationship does exist between sex and heart disease risk,” said Dr. Mike Knapton from the British Heart Foundation to the Telegraph. But that’s like saying “doing push-ups reduces your risk of heart disease,” without ever answering if it’s the push-ups (or maintaining the missionary) or just exercising the heart.

That said, if science says more sex reduces the risk of heart disease, men, get to boning.

Scientists are growing herpes-ridden turtle skin.

Some doctors turn into unsympathetic, murdering psychos like Mr. Hyde, and others give turtles herpes.

Why would a doctor inject anything with herpes? Well, researchers at the U.S. Geologic Survey in Honolulu are trying to understand a bizarre disease, “fibropapillomatosis,” which afflicts sea turtles with massive, warty tumors. Unlike most warty tumors, which requires some Podofilox or an excessive amount of apple cider vinegar (if you’re on a budget), these warts kill sea turtles, and the virus is so dangerous that, because green sea turtles are on the endangered species list, it could wipe the animal off the planet.

To fight the herpes-5, scientists decided to create some lab-grown turtle skin and find a way to replicate the virus—the first time anyone had grown ChHV5 in a lab. By doing this, the researchers discovered that the virus replicates differently than typical herpes strands. For example, they found sun-shaped replication centers, around which viruses, encased in capsids,
arranged.

Fuck herpes, right?

Now that the scientists have been able to regrow the virus in a lab, they hope to extract it, purify it, and test whether it causes fibropapillomatosis, thus, saving green sea turtles from extinction.

If not, they’ll keep injecting turtle skin with herpes until they find a cure.

Birds use cigarette butts for chemical warfare against ticks.

Smoking comes with some benefits, so long as you’re a bird, using it as a chemical weapon to fight nest parasites.

Constantino Macías Garcia at the National Autonomous University of Mexico has spent years studying the cigarette habits of city-dwelling finches. Rather than becoming addicted to the leftover nicotine in the tossed-out butts, he noticed that finches use the cigarettes to defend their nests against parasites.

In testing this realization, Garcia and his team experimented with 32 house finch nests. Once the eggs in the nest hatched, the researchers removed the natural nest lining and replaced it with artificial felt to remove the threat of parasites. From there, the team took ten nests and infested each with ticks; another ten nests were left with dead ticks; and the final twelve nests were left unaffected.

Those finches with tick-infested nests used cigarette butts to “medicate” their nests against the ticks.

“It’s fascinating, and an exciting example of animals being innovative and making use of the materials available to them,” says Steve Portugal lead author at Royal Holloway, University of London.

While innovative, the cigarettes end up littering the finches’ nests with harmful chemicals. Smoking may kill the ticks, but it’s also poisoning the birds.

Top photo by Flickr, CC BY 2.0


Tommy Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen San Diego but with more sunscreen and jorts.

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