Local Researchers Explore the Possibility of Male Contraceptive

Plus, other studies from around the Mitten State
male contraceptive
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This month, we take a look at three new intriguing findings from researchers across the state. Read below for a look at studies related to speaking in the second-person, male contraceptive, and an “Iron Man” microbe that can extract rust from cobalt.

You’ can be quite persuasive

Sentences that employ the generic or impersonal second-person — where “you” really stands in for “everyone,” as in, “You should read Hour Detroit every month” — tend to resonate better with readers, according to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and led by University of Michigan psychology and linguistics professor Susan Gelman. Gelman and her co-authors analyzed 1,120 passages in 56 popular books that were highlighted by readers on Kindle, where readers can see what other readers have taken special note of. Passages with the generic “you” were 8.5 times more likely to be highlighted, the researchers found. “This study is a really nice example of how sensitive people are to even a subtle variation in perspective and language,” Gelman says.

The Pill for men in the pipeline?

A pair of Wayne State University scientists landed a $150,000 grant from a nonprofit group known as the Male Contraceptive Initiative to further their research into ways to render sperm infertile. OB-GYN professor Zhibing Zhang and geneticist James Granneman believe they have identified two proteins necessary for sperm to function properly and are investigating ways to interfere with that process so that both men and women can take equal responsibility for preventing unwanted pregnancies. “More and more, men are expressing the desire to participate in contraception with their partners,” says Heather Vahdat, executive director of the North Carolina-based funding group.

‘Iron Man’ cells may help reduce toxic waste

Geobacter, a hardy microbe found in sediment and soil, is capable of extracting rust from cobalt, possibly leading the way to reclaiming the scarce and dangerous metal widely used in high-tech batteries. That’s the findings of a research team led by Michigan State University molecular geneticist Gemma Reguera as published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. Reguera likens Geobacter to a Marvel superhero because it removes the rust by taking it on itself “like Iron Man when he puts on the suit.” Reguera next wants to investigate whether the microbe can reclaim cadmium, common in rechargeable batteries and solar cells, which is also polluting landfills and waterways.

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Steve Friess is news and features editor at Hour Detroit and a contributing writer for Newsweek. A Long Island native who earned a journalism degree at Northwestern University, Friess worked at newspapers in Rockford, Illinois, Las Vegas, and South Florida before launching a freelance career in Beijing, China, where he served as chief China correspondent for USA Today. After his return to the U.S. in 2003, he settled in Las Vegas, where he covered the gambling industry and the American Southwest regularly for The New York Times, Playboy, The New Republic, Time, Portfolio, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, New York magazine, and many others. During that time, he created and co-hosted two successful and groundbreaking podcasts, the celebrity-interview show The Strip and the animal affairs program The Petcast. In 2011-12, Friess landed a Knight-Wallace Fellowship for mid-career journalists at the University of Michigan. That was followed by a stint as a senior writer covering the intersection of technology and politics at Politico in Washington, D.C., In 2013, he returned permanently to Ann Arbor, where he now lives with his husband, son, and three Pomeranians. He tweets at @SteveFriess and can be reached at sfriess@hour-media.com.