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The witcher’s potion. What is known about the mutagenicity of ‘healing’ herbs

In the popular witcher saga, boys go through trials, gaining inhuman strength, magical abilities, and longevity. A major role in this is played by herbs, supposedly changing the metabolism and basic systems of the body.

From a scientific point of view, phytotherapy does not cause such radical mutations, but to get poisoning and even a tumor is quite real.
Herbal medicine has been known since time immemorial, when classical medicine was in its infancy. And now many are convinced that the infusions of herbs, different types of tea, plant extracts benefit more than tablets, because it contains only natural ingredients. It is widely believed that herbs are environmentally friendly raw materials, they have a mild effect and are safe for the body. However, we are dealing with a myth that has no scientific evidence.

Unlike drugs manufactured by industry, plants contain hundreds of chemicals, each of which may have a biologically active effect. Homemade herbal preparations or those purchased as dietary supplements are not standardized, not cleaned, often have not passed laboratory and clinical trials, and therefore it is not known how they act on the body, are combined with other medicines, do they give side effects, in which doses are safe, and in which are toxic.

Scientists from India in 2017 described such a case. A 73-year-old man came to one of the hospitals with complaints of pain in the lower abdomen and throughout the body, fatigue, vomiting, and constipation. Eight months earlier, he had been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, and he was taking the herbal powder prescribed to him by an Ayurveda specialist, traditional Indian medicine.

Doctors examined the patient and prescribed conservative treatment, but vomiting did not pass. The next course also did not bring relief. Then they sent Ayurvedic powder for analysis and found there an increased content of lead – extremely toxic to humans. It was what caused the poisoning and inflammation of the intestines in the patient. It has been known for a long time that plants, especially roots, accumulate heavy metals and other toxic compounds well. Scientists use this feature to monitor soil pollution. The reverse side of plant susceptibility is the real risk of poisoning.

Weight Loss Risk

Since ancient times, plants of the genus Aristolochia have been used in obstetrics and treatment after snakebites. The acids of the same name contained in them have anti-inflammatory properties, and until recently, aristolochia extracts were part of the preparations for arthritis, rheumatism, gout, suppuration.

In the late 1980s, scientists discovered that aristolochic acids cause cancer in rodents. They are discontinued everywhere. However, in traditional medicine they are continued to be used.

In 1991, about one hundred cases of kidney damage due to prolonged use of Chinese traditional medicine for weight loss containing Aristolochia fangchi were revealed in Belgium. Several hundred people in different countries of Europe and Asia suffered from such “treatment”. It has now been proven in experiments on mammals that aristolochic acids cause mutations in genes, provoking the synthesis of abnormal proteins in cells. This phenomenon is called mutagenesis. In 2012, the International Agency for Research on Cancer added these substances to the group of proven carcinogens, and in 2017, the Chinese authorities announced the names of 43 patented drugs and 24 plant species containing aristolochic acids.

Unexplored secrets of herbal medicine

According to rough estimates, about a third of people in the Western world use herbal and other folk remedies for colds, fever, inflammation, indigestion, constipation, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, diabetes, diseases of the central nervous system and even AIDS. In the United States, from 1993 to 2012, the number of herbal medicine products on the market increased tenfold. WHO recommends phytotherapy with proven efficacy in the medical insurance. All these trends, apparently, are associated with a strong belief in the healing properties of herbs that have been tested by folk medicine for thousands of years. At the same time, as American researchers note, the more widely the herbal medicine is used, the more cases of liver damage are associated with it. This is a slight increase in the level of liver enzymes and cirrhosis, and the accumulation of adipose tissue in the liver cells.

Now several natural components of herbs have been identified that have toxic and carcinogenic effects. For example, pyrrolisidine alkaloids are found in more than six thousand plants, including licorice, coltsfoot, and cucumber grass. In comfrey medicinal – 14 compounds of this type, considered genotoxic. The most famous are symphytin, 7-acetyllicopsin, 7-acetylintermedin and intermedin. These substances can cause mutations in genes, damage DNA, chromosomes, micronuclei. Many medicinal plants (Sassafras officinalis, Chinese cinnamon) and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, anise) contain compounds of the phenylpropanoid group. For some, for example, carcinogenic effects has been proven.

Among the huge variety of potentially useful plants, the genotoxic properties of plant compounds and extracts have been studied in a very small part, the authors of the review note. To many experiments there are questions. Most were made on cell cultures, in rare cases on animals, the doses at which negative properties are manifested have not always been studied, and the results are often contradictory. Little is investigated about the manifested qualities of the compounds in complex mixtures, and this is how they are most often used in folk medicine. But the very fact that compounds dangerous for DNA are found in plants used by humans, requires studying this category of traditional medicine more carefully.

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Science & Technology

Japan has developed an inflatable scooter that weighs practically nothing

The University of Tokyo engineers have developed the Poimo inflatable electric scooter, which is created individually for each owner. It is enough to send your photo to the manufacturers – and a personal optimized model will be assembled for you.

The scooter is designed with a special program for the body size of a particular user and his specific fit. Moreover, each owner is free to make any changes to this model. If he makes any changes to the drawing, the program will automatically redesign the electric bike to maintain its strength, stability and controllability. When the model is finished and approved, it is handed over to the manufacturer.

Scooter Poimo

The scooter consists of seven separate inflatable sections that are constructed from durable fabric and sewn with straight stitch. It remains to add electronic components – in particular, a brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery. 

The finished electric scooter weighs about 9 kg and can travel at speeds up to 6 km / h (that is, slightly faster than a pedestrian). It can work for an hour on one charge.

This is how the current version of Poimo looks like in action:

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Excerpts from Elon Musk’s speech at the Martian Society convention

Elon Musk’s comments with questions relayed from the Mars Society Membership by Dr. Robert Zubrin, James L. Burk, and Carie Fay. Following Elon’s 30 min time, Dr. Zubrin took additional questions. This special event was part of the 2020 Mars Society Virtual Convention from October 14-18, 2020.

About Starship Test Schedule:

– entering orbit – with a probability of 80% -90% will take place in 2021

– the probability of the return of the ship and the 1st stage in this flight is 50%

– test of refueling in orbit – 2022

– Starship lunar version – 2022 or 2023

– Starship flight to Mars – around 2024

The goal of the Starship is to build a self-sufficient settlement on Mars as quickly as possible. Musk does not rule out the possibility that this will not be achieved during his lifetime. According to his rough estimates, to create a self-sufficient city, it will be necessary to deliver 1 million tons of cargo, which corresponds to 4-5 million tons in a low Earth orbit. Modern single-use launch vehicles are capable of removing less than 1% of this value.

“Disposable launch vehicles are completely stupid. They are a waste of time. I think people need to stop wasting time on this. If you try to sell a disposable plane, you will be thrown out of the office. If you try to sell a disposable car, you will also be thrown out of the office. “

A series of questions and answers followed:

What is the best landing site on Mars?

– I’m not sure about that. But I can name the criteria. The first of these is latitude: most likely it will be in the northern hemisphere, far enough to the north to have water ice, but to still have enough sunlight.It also needs to be low to get the most benefit from atmospheric braking.

How do you prioritize mission priorities: research, infrastructure construction, and science?

– The first will be the construction of a fuel plant.

A question from a teenager who wants to become an engineer and robot maker with a dream to work at SpaceX: what is the most important education in order to become an engineer?

– There are many varieties of this profession: you can be an aerospace engineer, in the field of electronics, software, or a chemical engineer involved in creating safe production of fuels. I think physics is a good foundation for critical thinking.

Boring Company was originally conceived as a tunnel manufacturing firm on Mars?

– No. It was originally something of a joke. I thought tunnels were a good solution to reduce the traffic problem in cities and improve the quality of life by turning parking lots into green parks. To do this, you need to go to 3d [get away from the “flat” infrastructure – approx. per.]. I think tunnels are good for Mars too. But there you need a lot lighter equipment: you don’t care about mass on Earth, but you will have to take care of it a lot when going to Mars.

At Boring Company, have you learned a lot of technology that might come in handy on Mars?

– I think, yes.

Do you have any tips for young people who love Mars but don’t know how to participate in its settlement?

– I think any strong advocate of the need to conquer Mars matters. People often don’t even think about it. I often talk to people who don’t even know about it. Therefore, I consider it important for humanity and consciousness in general to bring a discussion about this to society. Talking about it with friends and acquaintances – I think this is what we should do. In my estimate, we will spend less than 1% of our efforts on Mars exploration, exactly less than healthcare, perhaps even less than cosmetics – this will be enough to make life multi-planetary. But this requires people to start talking about it 100 times more often. I think this is what really matters. [the entire cosmonautics of the world is $ 424 billion a year, while cosmetics is $ 532 billion, and tobacco production is $ 849 billion – approx. per.]

What’s the coolest part about Starship development?

– I think the coolest detail is the ability to work with a great group of engineers and come up with interesting solutions. I think the best thing is the opportunity to work with smart and creative people who come up with solutions that were not available before. This is a great reward.

What do you focus on when hiring, especially with regard to engineers?

“We’re looking for signs of exceptional ability. Or at the very least, striving to do exceptional things at SpaceX.

Are you planning to make a Mars-Earth communication system like Starlink?

– Yes, I think we will use a laser, probably launched into orbit, to avoid atmospheric diffraction. Thus, it will be a laser beam going from the orbit of the Earth to the orbit of Mars. And also relay satellites in solar orbit, since the laser beam cannot be sent through the Sun [when it is between Mars and Earth – approx. per.].

Can Starship be used for other destinations like Venus and other planets?

– Starship will be able to travel to any target in the solar system that has a solid surface when fuel depots appear. It is not the kind of transport that will take us to other stars, but when we become a multi-planetary species, we will create a demand for innovation in space travel that will ultimately lead us to interstellar travel.

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Cern Scientists Plan an Impressive Experiment – They Will Come Into A Parallel Universe

Cern scientists are once again preparing to impress the entire planet and become the focus of discussions with the new experiment they are planning.

An experiment that, if it brings the fascinating result that scientists have in mind,  will change the way we think about the world , will take place in the next few days at the Large Hadron Collider, the European nuclear center, Geneva CERN Research.

The astonishingly LHC complex, the largest, most energetic elemental accelerator in the world,  will be “fired” for the first time to its highest energy levels, in an effort to detect – or even create – tiny black holes. 

If it succeeds, then, a completely new universe will be revealed – rewriting not only the books of physics, but also the books of philosophy! 

It is possible, however,  that gravity from our universe will “leak” into this parallel universe, as LHC scientists say. 

From the Higgs boson to dark matter and the parallel universe

According to the British Express, the experiment is sure to “trigger” the critics, who are worried about the LHC, many of whom warn that the elementary particle accelerator will mark the end of our universe, creating a of the black hole.

Nevertheless,  Geneva has remained … intact since 2008, when the LHC began its spectacular “work”.

The first scientists at the Large Hadron Collider proved the existence of the Higgs boson – a key building block of the universe – and the LHC appears to be on track to locate “dark matter” – a previously undetectable force now considered that it constitutes the majority of matter in the universe, being, in fact, the reason why the latter is constantly expanding and moving away. 

So next week’s experiment is considered to change the game. 

The truth is out there

Mir Faizal, one of three heads of the three natural groups behind the experiment, said: 

“Like many parallel sheets, which are two-dimensional objects (width and length) can exist in a third dimension (height) , so parallel universes can also exist in higher dimensions. We anticipate that gravity can leak into extra dimensions, and if that happens, then tiny black holes can be produced in the LHC. 

Normally, when people think of the multiverse, they think of the interpretation of quantum mechanics by many worlds, where every possibility is realized. This cannot be tested and so it is a philosophy and not a science. We do not mean this with parallel universes. What we mean is real universes, in extra dimensions. The truth is out there.”

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