Savior siblings are used for their working parts, two different types of earwax, and the new toilet that comments on your flow.

Extreme Brotherly Love
“Mom! Timmy says I can’t have his kidney! Tell him to give it to me.”

“Timmy, give your brother your kidney.”

“But I don’t want to!”


So goes the horrifying scenario imagined in a recent report by the UK Human Genetics Commission (HGC). The precise dialogue may have been fabricated, but the idea is real: Researchers are concerned by the creation of “savior siblings,” babies who are nearly identical genetic matches to an older sibling and are bred and used for their tissue, which can include anything from umbilical stem cells to bone marrow to a kidney. A number of “savior siblings” have already been born, and the HGC is concerned they are being treated like heaps of spare parts, rather than actual people. The report says it will be tough to prevent parents from creating children to solve a life-threatening problem in an older child, but there need to be safeguards against mistreatment as well as research into the well-being of the “saviour siblings.” And you thought The Island was totally unrealistic sci-fi, didn’t you?
(source: BBC)

Cutting It Close
A dermatologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham warns you not to use the newfangled multi-blade razors that have taken our stubble-plagued-world by storm. Men with naturally coarse, curly beards—generally those of African, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent—often get serious razor bumps, less commonly known as pseudofolliculitis barbae. Using three-, four-, or five-blade razors does indeed give a closer shave, as advertisers promise, but the oblique, close cut causes hairs to retract far into the skin and exacerbates the bumpy condition. Apparently a simple straight-razor shave from the local barber is the best a man can get.
(source: University of Alabama at Birmingham)

Husbands’ Snoring Rouses Wives
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago are looking to the US divorce rate by opening up its people’s air passages. The scientists are performing a study on how a husband’s snoring affects his marriage. Their early results show that when a husband snores, he does indeed wake up his wife, disrupting her sleep. This makes both man and wife grouchy and, possibly, destroys their marriage. After treating the snoring husbands with continuous positive airway pressure, they observed that wives are much happier with their smoothly-breathing spouses. The researchers say one wife’s quality of life measure jumped from a 1.2 to a 7, showing her husband’s preexisting condition was no longer a bother to her.
(source: Rush University Medical Center)

Wax On, Wax Off
Are you right handed or left handed? Male or female? Straight or gay? Do you have wet earwax or dry earwax? It’s not exactly on the vital stats list, but according to a new study in Nature Genetics, a mutation in a single letter on one gene determines whether a person’s earwax is moist or arid. The research also found that earwax consistency correlates highly with ethnicity: 95% of East Asians have dry earwax, whereas 97% of people of European or African descent have wet. The authors believe the wet type is the ancestral form, which developed before people migrated from Africa 50,000 years ago, and that the dry form probably arose in northern Asia. Since Native Americans often have dry earwax, the researchers believe it evolved sometime before Asians crossed the Bering Strait into America 15,000 years ago.
(sources: BBC, New York Times)

Eau de Rocky
He smells her intoxicating aroma and recalls her big, black eyes, her provocative, jittery gait, her thick, bushy tail. A study in the February issue of Animal Behavior shows squirrels save mental images of other squirrels using the other’s unique scent. The researchers said squirrels produce several different odors—from the mouth, ears, back, bottoms of the feet and anal scent glands—and that they are able to recognize that all the different smells come from one single squirrel source. The lead author said she believes other types of animals, such as birds, reptiles and other mammals, also possess this ability. (source: Discovery News)

Pot Head-Strong
Contrary to the personal testimonies of a generation of stoners, smoking a doobie won’t relax you. A new study concludes marijuana smoking in fact increases aggressive behavior in young teens. And while criminality and aggression were fed by cannabis, the internalizing effects traditionally associated with marijuana, such as withdrawal and depression, showed no correlation. But a past fogged in pot smoke won’t damn you forever—those who had not used pot within the preceding year were no more likely to be delinquent than those who had never inhaled.
(source: Scotsman)

Same Old, Same Old
I have a confession to make: I’ve been eating at Villagio Italiano in Hartsdale, New York, on a fairly regular basis for seven years, and whenever I go, I order pollo e pasta veneziana, salad with vinaigrette, and a Coke. For years I assumed I was a total freak for never changing my order, but a new study has vindicated my eating habits. According to a paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, people get more satisfaction from eating favorite foods repeatedly than from spicing up their meals with variety. People also tend to overestimate their desire for variety, and especially overestimate other’s interest in a heterogeneous diet. When subjects were asked to choose five snacks for a partner, they usually chose a diverse group of snacks, ignoring the fact that the other person would probably not eat the foods all at once. When they were subtly reminded that nobody was going to binge, variety decreased. So, if you want to put a little zing in someone’s life, choose the same spice again and again.
(source: University of Chicago Press Journals)

U.P. Freely
The Swiss government brings good news for guys with prostate problems and bad news for dudes with performance anxiety during urination: The country has installed urinals in public lavatories that measure the pressure of a stream of urine to determine whether a problematic prostate is blocking its flow. If your stream is but a trickle, the urinal speaks to you, playing a recorded message advising you to see a doctor. If your stream is a gushing Niagara, the result may actually be worse: The urinal sings the European football cheer “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole.”
(source: Improbable Research)

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Originally published February 6, 2006


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