From a groundbreaking penis transplant to why giraffes have such long necks, the science world had some pretty great news stories this week. Here are our top picks. (Deirdra O'Regan/The Washington Post)

First U.S. penis transplant deemed a success

We heard about the first penis transplant in the United States this week, only the third time the complex, high-risk surgery has ever been performed.

The recipient, Thomas Manning, 64, lost most of his penis to cancer several years ago. Doctors say he’s doing really well and will have almost completely normal penile function within a few months.

Manning told the AP this week that he’s already gaining sensation back, less than two weeks after surgery. “You can feel the touch, that means nerve endings are working,” he said. “I just can feel like movement and life in it already.”

Hear from the doctors who performed the surgery here.

Could there be life on Europa?

A new study supports the theory that Jupiter’s moon, Europa, may be able to support life.

We already knew Europa has an ocean underneath its icy surface. NASA scientists modeled how much hydrogen and oxygen the moon could realistically produce on its own, and found that the ratio between the two elements was roughly the same as it is on Earth.

This is all just based on mathematical modeling, so we don’t know for certain that Europa could support life. NASA will take a closer look when it sends a probe to visit the alien moon in about 10 years time.

Read more and check out some pretty neat video here.

 


(Doug Cavener)

Little changes led to long necks

Giraffes’ long necks are funny looking, sure, but they’re also an amazing example of genetic adaptation. This week we found out a little more about how they came to be.

Giraffe torsos are short so that they can support their massive necks, and their blood pressure is twice as high as our own so that they can pump blood more than six feet up to reach their brains.

Scientists already knew that giraffes adapted really quickly by evolutionary standards. New research shows that the radical physical changes from a common ancestor were actually the result of a few subtle gene mutations.

You can read more about it here.

Are GMO’s safe? That's not the right question to ask

A panel of experts was convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to try to evaluate how safe, or otherwise, genetically engineered crops really are. Their 388-page report is thorough but doesn’t provide a definitive answer.

The experts concluded that although no “substantiated” evidence exists that genetically engineered crops have caused problems in humans or the environment, it’s too soon to reach a conclusion, positive or negative. But they argue that focusing on the process of genetic modification — rather than the individual plants produced by it — is misguided. Read more on that study here.

Still want more science? Here are some other links from the week:

Mars may have been carved up by massive ancient tsunamis

These bugs have a startling strategy for keeping predators away

This dinosaur had a heartbreaking life. Now she’s famous — and an inspiration.

When trees droop at night, they might actually be ‘sleeping’

New Horizons studies its first mysterious, distant space object after Pluto

This incredible ‘liquid wire’ is inspired by spider silk