This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.
Lab-Grown Penises on the Horizon?
Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine say they have six laboratory-grown human penises that are almost ready to be implanted if they get approval for the trial from the Food and Drug Administration. The same lab was responsible for the first successful implant of a lab-grown organ, a bladder, back in 1999. Researchers there also have been able to transplant engineered vaginas into women born without complete vaginas.
The lab-grown penises start with a donor organ that is stripped of its cells and then seeded with two different types of cells from the genitals of the ultimate recipient. By making the penis out of the recipient’s own cells, scientist say they are reducing the chance of organ rejection. This means, however, that the procedure cannot be used to create a penis for someone going through sex reassignment surgery. Instead the procedure is intended for biological males whose penis did not form properly in utero or those who have had traumatic injuries, such as soldiers wounded on the battlefield.
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The procedure was tested on 12 rabbits; all successfully tried to mate using their engineered penis, eight were able to ejaculate, and four impregnated their bunny partner.
Scientists are continuing to look at the safety and efficacy of lab-grown penises for humans and hope to have approval for testing within five years.
Sex > Food
Though many of us would have guessed this without needing a study, new research from the University of Rochester Medical Centre Britain confirms that male brains are wired to suppress hunger pains in order to continue looking for a mate.
Male worm brains, that is.
Specifically, researchers looked at two genders of a microscopic roundworm called C. elegans: males and hermaphrodites. Some of the male worms had been genetically engineered to feel hungrier and more sensitive to the smell of food. The worms were then placed in petri dishes with food and potential mates.
The hermaphrodites stayed near the food as did the genetically modified males. The untouched males, however, left the food in search of a mate. As a result, they were ten times more likely to get lucky than their genetically modified peers.
Douglas Portman, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Genetics and Center for Neural Development and Disease, told the Telegraph, “This adds to a growing body of evidence that sex-specific regulation of gene expression may play an important role in neural plasticity and, consequently, influence differences in behaviours—and in disease susceptibility—between the sexes.”
Italian Couple Allegedly Stuck Together After Ocean Sex
Sex on the beach is considered so romantic it has a drink named after it, but the reality may be a little messier. Not only is there all that sand, but reports out of Porto San Giorgio, Italy, say that sea water cost a couple a trip to the hospital after they became unable to separate.
According to a local newspaper, after the couple had intercourse in the water they realized they could not extricate the man’s penis from the woman’s vagina. They walked awkwardly out of the water, flagged a passerby who called for an ambulance, and were taken to a local hospital. Doctors apparently separated them by giving the woman an injection commonly used to dilate the cervix of a pregnant woman.
Though reports chalked the incident up to too much suction in the woman’s vagina, “This Week in Sex” was a little confused by the mechanics both of the problem and the solution. We reached out to an OB-GYN, who asked to go unnamed, to see if she thought suction could be to blame. She was frankly suspicious of the report. She said that she has seen objects—like tennis balls—get suctioned into the vagina before, but never a penis. She also noted that she couldn’t understand how dilating a woman’s cervix could help in this situation—the way to get anything that is stuck in the vagina out is to put a finger
inside and break the seal. On that note, she added that a man in that situation would likely lose his erection, which should theoretically break the suction on its own.
Our guess is that some detail of the story got lost in translation. But we nonetheless question the true romanticism of sex on the beach. Did we mention all that sand?