Sex with time-travellers might kill you.

When time travel finally becomes possible, we might want to think twice about getting it on. According to a new study on tiny shrimp (Artemia franciscana), sex with partners from a different time could kill you.

Researchers at the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE) in Montpellier, France, collected preserved brine shrimp eggs from various generations, and then reanimated them with water. Nicolas Rode and colleagues mated pairs of brine shrimp that had been reanimated from eggs preserved since 1985, 1996 and 2007, a period representing roughly 160 generations. They found that females that mated with males from the past or future died off sooner than those that mated with their own generation. The longer the time-shift, the earlier they died: The 22-year time difference shortened female lifetimes by 12 percent; the effect was 3 percent for the 11-year time-shift.

Interestingly, this didn’t affect the females’ reproductive success. Those that lived shorter lives produced the same average number of offspring, they just did it at a faster pace. “Females’ life histories are complex and are constantly adjusted,” explains study co-author Thomas Lenormand. These adjustments reflect the trade-offs between survival and reproduction in nature.

Brine shrimp are part of an interesting class of animal whose eggs can survive decades of drought in a form of dormancy known as cryptobiosis. Once the eggs are reintroduced to water—either in nature or in the lab—they hatch. The species therefore makes an ideal subject for a time-traveling experiment like this one.

What makes time-shifting sex hazardous to health is something called antagonistic coevolution, a way that different species (parasites and hosts, for example) or members of the same species (males and females) adapt to each other to promote their own individual reproductive interests. In nature’s sex wars, males campaign for more offspring—the proverbial seed-spreading—while females play hard-to-get because they bear most of the burden of reproduction and parenthood.

Evolutionary biologists say these conflicts are common in nature, and could occur either as an arms race, with each side’s weapons getting bigger and better, or as a fluctuation, where the two sides take turns dominating each other over time with novel adaptations.

If males and females coevolve their sex organs in tandem, mating with a partner from a different time could leave you unprepared—sort of like heading into modern war with 17th-century armor. The brine shrimp experiment shows just this.

Unfortunately, the researchers couldn’t determine whether there were arms-race-style or fluctuation-style adaptations at work in this experiment. They’d need a longer time-shift to figure that out, which would test the limits of brine shrimp cryptobiosis. They also don’t know what traits made the time-shifting males more deadly. Lenormand and Rode say they’d like to investigate these traits in the future. It could have something to do with amplexus, in which male brine shrimp grasp their partners for hours or even days after sex to keep them from mating with others. A byproduct of this so-called mate guarding is that the females can’t feed, which could shorten their lifetimes. The researchers would also like to flip the experiment on its head, studying the effects of time-shifting sex on males instead of females.

So what does shrimp sex have to do with us? Sexual conflicts and antagonistic coevolution are “probably central to understanding male/female behavior,” Lenormand says. In fact, it turns out that antagonistic coevolution is hard at work in humans today. I’ve previously written about the possible antidepressant properties of seminal fluid. But there’s a dark side to semen, too. Gordon Gallup, an evolutionary biologist as SUNY Albany explained it thus:

“At the level of semen chemistry and vaginal chemistry, there’s competition. The vagina is a very hostile environment for sperm. When a female is inseminated, the presence of the semen triggers an immune reaction, so semen—and particularly the sperm—are treated as pathogens. Male seminal plasma contains all kinds of chemicals that are designed to take this into account. Seminal plasma is alkaline, and a couple seconds after ejaculation the pH of the vagina approaches neutrality, which makes it a friendly environment for sperm. Sperm also contains a lot of immunosuppressants that suppress the female’s immune system and counteract this immune reaction to semen.”

Intro: Was treatment the right way to go?

The amount of new cases of HIV have been more or less stable the last decade, but I wonder – how would it look if we didn´t treat the infected? There are about 50 million HIV positive people on the planet today, and a large part of them are people undergoing a strict antiretroviral drug regiment – costing the public billions of dollars each year. And the treatment give the infected up to 20 years longer before they develop AIDS, if they develop it at all. But the problem is this, then they have 20 or so more years with the ability to infect others.

The way to get rid of dangerous deceases like HIV/AIDS isn´t to keep it in check, but to let the infected die out or find a cure. If treatment never started, and we focused the funds given to research for these regiments on how to prevent infections, the world-wide numbers would be way down.

I´ll continue this when I´ve done a bit more research, but I actually think that treatment was the wrong way to go. Call me brutal, but the only way to eradicate deadly deceases is to cure or let the infected die – though I do get why someone infected with HIV wants to live as long as possible, but that doesn´t make it the right strategy for eradicating the illness.

Three new AIDS advances embolden the medical community

After three decades, major developments in HIV treatment and prevention are finally moving forward at a steady pace – two studies and one extraordinary patient have captured the attention of doctors and scientists, and made the idea of a cure less fantastical.

Doctors say American Timothy Ray Brown was indeed cured of HIV in Germany. The “Berlin Patient” was being treated for leukemia when he was given a bone marrow transplant using the stem cells of a HIV resistant donor. More than two years after the transplant, his bloodstream is now free of HIV even though he´s not taking antiretroviral drugs.

Many of us view this as a unique case that´s not relatable to people doing very well on medications, says Peter Anton, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. However, it does provide proof that it´s possible to eradicate HIV from the body. Until now we haven´t had that proof because of concerns that there are hidden reservoirs of HIV as well as low levels of HIV replication we cannot detect.

There is also much excitement over microbicides, a new type of prevention method in the form of a gel applied vaginally or rectally to prevent infection, especially after last year´s announcement that a vaginal gel containing the antiretroviral drug tenofovir had a 39% success rate among South African women. Further advances could boost those numbers, and more studies are under way. Human trials of rectal microbicide will likely begin in two to three years.

If you go to a bar nad ask how many people know what a microbicide is, most people won´t raise their hand, Anton says. We want to change that.

Another breakthrough came out of a study on pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP. Results showed that regular doses of the antiretroviral pill Truvada cut HIV infection rate by 44% among a group of HIV-negative, specially men and transgender women who have sex with men. While Anton is heartened by the findings, he offers caveats, specially about people preemptively taking PrEP without further confirmation of its success. The second major PrEP worry involves those who contract HIV while taking the regimen – there´s a chance they could become resistant to other antiretroviral drugs.

There are so many people who do not know their diagnosis, Anton says. If they end up taking prevention medicines but are already HIV-positive, they could be utilizing single-drug therapy, which is a big NO-NO. To avoid drug resistance, HIV-positive people need combination-drug therapy.

As studies on PrEP continues, regiment refinement is likely on the horizon.

One of the efforts on the PrEP side was to study preventive use in a controlled setting so we could document whether you need it daily or weekly, Anton says. This is going to be looked at further so we can give more informed guidelines than those out now.

Note: Mutations protect against development of AIDS

One out of about 300 infected with the HIV virus never developes full-blown AIDS. They are in some way able to keep the virus under control.

An international team of researchers have now found five mutations in the protein HLA-B which makes it easier for the immune system to identify the HIV virus and attack it. This may be a clue to finding the flaws of the virus and help in finding a cure.

Related stories:
Norwegian gay men – not safe enough!
HIV, a thing of the past?

Norwegian gay men – not safe enough.

In the norwegian gay scene, HIV is  spreading like before, despite a decrease in the the world wide spread. So far this year there been reported 200 new cases of HIV infection. And gay men dominate those statistics, around 85 of these cases are gay men.

Rubber up norwegians!

There are about 4000 living with HIV in Norway, and 50 million in the world.

HIV, a thing of the past?

An american man with HIV is cured after a bone marrow transplant, german scientists say.

It was back in 2007 the american who then both had HIV and blood cancer, he got treated for the cancer with a bone marrow transplant. It turns out that the donor had the genetic mutation making you immune to the HIV virus, and it some how cured him.

Today, almost four years after the transplant, the patient is still HIV free, and there is no sign of it hiding anywhere in his body.

The results conclude that we have, in fact, cured this patient of the HIV virus, the germans say.

Mother nature hates WIFI.

Studies on the effects of wireless radiation on humans are all over the place, with no clear results. But a recent study on the radiation effects on trees indicates that our woody friends are way more vulnarable than us. And the trees can´t even enjoy the benefits of WiFi, it´s so unfair.

The study, conducted by Wageningen University, investigated findings that trees in areas with high Wi-Fi activity (urban areas, especially) were suffering from symptoms that couldn’t be tied to typical bacterial or viral causes. The symptoms included bleeding, fissures in the bark, the death of parts of leaves, and abnormal growth.

To test the hypothesis that the mystery illness was caused by radiation poisoning, the researchers took 20 ash trees and exposed them to various kinds of radiation for three months. Sure enough, the ash trees exposed to Wi-Fi signals showed telltale signs of radiation sickness, including a “lead-like shine” on their leaves, indicating the oncoming death of those leaves. In the Netherlands, a whopping 70% of urban trees are suffering from radiation poisoning, up from only 10% five years ago – understandable, considering the explosion in Wi-Fi use in the past five years.

Of course, trees in rural or even simply non-urban environments are pretty much unaffected, but theoretically, all deciduous trees in the Western world could be affected.

The researchers are planning several more studies to figure out the precise effects of radiation on plant life. In the meantime, they don’t really offer any preliminary solutions.