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A Scientist and Ewe Walk Into a Bar ...

It's no joke: Researchers give Viagra to pregnant sheep and find that the drug boosts vital nutrients needed for fetal development.

Did you hear the joke about the pregnant female sheep that took Viagra? Um, no, really — it was in the Journal of Nutritionand everything.

Back in 2003, two Texas AgriLife Research scientists were laughingly chatting about Viagra while working with pregnant ewes — look, things can get slow on the Frontiers of Science, OK?

"We made a joke that many men are now using Viagra and that women may also have a need for it," recalled Dr. Guoyao Wu in a press release, as a rim-shot echoed in the background. "Interestingly, one week later, we saw that Pfizer Inc. announced an international request for research proposals on Viagra."

Bada-boom! But seriously folks, Pfizer accepted the researchers' proposal to study Viagra in sheep, and it turns out the drug enhances blood flow in pregnant ewes, helping boost vital nutrients needed for fetal development. And this is important because, as Wu explains, "5 percent to 10 percent of infants are born as low birth-weight babies worldwide, and fetal-growth retardation is also a significant problem in livestock species."


The researchers hope to extend the trials into other species and perhaps even humans, eventually.

But take note: If your sheep's increased blood flow lasts for more than 48 hours, ahem, consult your vet.

The Cocktail Napkin appears at the back page of each issue of Miller-McCune magazine, highlighting current research that merits a raised eyebrow or a painful grin.