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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

Pot medically engineered to help with weight loss and park benches made from old diapers are just the start this week.

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Our next story, about two other things that make people smile -- getting high and eating -- begins in a secret greenhouse in the south of England. The facility houses cannabis plants that are being developed by GW Pharmaceuticals (which has a license to grow them) for all kinds of interesting medical purposes including one that’s very counterintuitive. 

Richard Gray from the Telegraph reports that plants were bred to have different levels of cannabinoids, various compounds in the cannabis plant, from which drugs are being developed to treat multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Two of the cannabinoids --  THCV and cannabidiol -- were found, intriguingly to have an appetite-suppressing effect, though it only lasts for a short time.

GW is testing those two compounds in cannabis leaves that may help treat Type 2 diabetes and reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and fat levels in organs. In animal studies,  “the compounds also had an impact on the level of fat in the body and its response to insulin, a hormone that controls the sugar levels in the blood.  Tests in mice showed the compounds boosted the animals' metabolism, leading to lower levels of fat in their livers and reduced cholesterol in their bloodstream.”

Clinical trials are being conducted in hopes of treating “patients suffering from 'metabolic syndrome,' where diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity combine to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.”

I don’t have much experience with the munchies, never having needed pot to help me wipe out a bag of Funyuns, but it does seem kind of funny that a drug known for giving people the munchies could now help with weight-loss. It’s the kind of irony you could probably think about for many peaceful hours if you were really high.

9. A fishy tribute to Bob Marley

Speaking of marijuana, Bob Marley (who, About.com says, smoked as a part of his Rastafarian religion) has got a new species of fish named after him. 

The gnathea marleyi was named by Paul Sikkel of Arkansas State University who said, “I named this species, which is a truly natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley’s music.” In addition, “this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley,” as reported by Jeanna Bryner of LiveScience

Neat! It’s a big honor to get a species named after you...but it kind of seems a little incongruous that the namesake of the guy who wrote “One Love,” is a “parasitic crustacean,” and a “blood feeder” that “infests certain fish that live among the coral reefs of the shallow eastern Caribbean Sea.” Gnathids may be responsible for many diseases and Sikkel says that as the coral population degrades external parasites are more likely to go for host fishes. "And as the number of potential host fish decreases, each remaining host will become more heavily parasitized."

Eww. To be blunt (no pun intended) it doesn’t sound at all pleasant -- not at all like the  fly with the golden tush named after Beyonce which Bryner notes in her list of celeb-named species. 

10. Sneaky plants

That description of the Marley fish just goes to show that you never know what’s out there and you never know what’s gonna getcha.  

Case in point: a super-sneaky carnivorous plant that doesn’t even put its fiendish flesh trap on the outside where you can see it, but keeps it underground where it snaps unsuspecting creatures that think it’s just another pretty face.

And it is quite pretty, as you can see in this picture that goes with io9’s story by Lauren Davis about the genus Philcoxia that has secret underground leaves with which to trap its prey.

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