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

The witcher's potion. What is known about the mutagenicity of 'healing' herbs 86

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

New Physics: Mysterious radiation pointed to the verge of discovering a “ghost” particle that makes up dark matter

New Physics: Mysterious radiation pointed to the verge of discovering a "ghost" particle that makes up dark matter 87
Photo: Daniel Molybdenum, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Physicists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States have found that the mysterious high-energy radiation emitted from the vicinity of a group of neutron stars may indicate the existence of axions – not yet discovered particles within the framework of New Physics, the search for which has been going on since 1977. It is assumed that special types of axions form dark matter. This is reported in an article published in the journal Physical Review Letters. The research is summarized in a press release on Phys.org.

It is believed that axions can form in the core of neutron stars and transform into photons in the presence of a powerful magnetic field. To detect the electromagnetic radiation associated with axions, you need to find stars that do not emit radiation at different wavelengths that can mask the desired signal. 

These objects include the Magnificent Seven neutron stars that emit only X-ray and ultraviolet radiation. They are located at a distance of 200-500 parsecs from the Earth.

The researchers ruled out the scenario that the excess X-rays produced by the Magnificent Seven are actually emitted by other, more distant objects. These sources would be found in datasets from the XMM-Newton and Chandra X-ray space telescopes.

The extra X-rays likely originate from axions hitting an extremely strong electromagnetic field billions of times stronger than the magnetic fields that could be created on Earth, the scientists concluded. The axions themselves resemble neutrinos in their properties, since both have insignificant masses and rarely and weakly interact with matter.

The axion is currently viewed as the most promising candidate for dark matter particles, since another hypothetical candidate, the massive WIMP particle, has gone unnoticed in experiments aimed at detecting it. 

In addition, there may be a whole family of axion-like particles that form dark matter, as suggested by string theory. If axions are found, it will prove that there is a whole new area of ​​physics outside the Standard Model describing the properties of all known particles.

To find out, the next step will be to study white dwarfs, which are not expected to emit X-rays.

“If we see an abundance of X-rays there too, our arguments will be pretty compelling,” said lead author Benjamin Safdie.

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The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear?

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 88

Various sources often talk about civilizations that lived long before us. They all developed, prospered for a while, and then disappeared in an incomprehensible way. 

What is the reason for their decline, we probably will not know. All we can do is admire the remains of stone buildings, over which time has almost no power.

While looking for an answer, we somehow accidentally stumbled upon an interesting saying about the life of Japanese samurai: “A samurai has no goal, but a path.” In the end, the “path of the samurai” ended in what is known – death. The path of any civilization ended in the same way.

If you look at the issue through the prism of a samurai saying, then there is no point in looking for why and how civilization ended its existence. Probably, the process itself and its result are important here. But to whom is it important and what result does it expect?

Mysterious director

Apparently, behind the curtains of this “ancient theater” there is a mysterious “director” who periodically makes necessary adjustments to the history of civilization.

To figure out what’s what, you need to look at current trends in science. Where does a person strive with such an irresistible desire to “play God.” This attracts him and at the same time frightens him, but in no way turns him away from the intended path. Most likely, artificial intelligence (AI) is the purpose of our civilization’s existence.

About 50 years ago it would have seemed nonsense, but to someone, perhaps even now. However, if you trace the last 100 years of the life of our civilization, you get the feeling that most of the discoveries were given to mankind at the same time. A powerful leap has taken place in a hundred years. Why did it happen?

At the beginning of the last century, scientists recognized the existence of fields that have memory and the ability to store and transmit information. It is very likely that such or a similar field can be around the Earth and, more interesting, possess intelligence. Isn’t this the same “Director” hiding behind the screen of the “ancient theater”?

If this is so, then at a certain moment the “Director” gives the selected scientist “access” to certain knowledge (perhaps even in a dream, like Mendeleev), and another scientific breakthrough occurs in the world. Step by step, discovery after discovery, humanity is steadily moving towards the creation of AI. The trend is already well visible.

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 89

AI is probably the next “Babylon”, which will combine all the knowledge, culture and accumulated experience of civilization. In the future, the neural network will enter into a connection with the general information field and leave humanity without knowledge, technology, and even a spoken language. This will be the next decline of civilization. And the “Director” will receive another array of new data (experience) in order to start creating a new civilization.

If someone believes that past civilizations ended in large-scale conflicts, then most likely this is already the consequences of “turning off” AI.

Co-founder of Skype talked about the threat of AI to humanity

One of the creators of the Skype internet call service, Jaan Ta

The goal of human civilization is to create AI and disappear? 90
Photo: 
© still from the movie “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”

llinn, said that the development of artificial intelligence (AI) threatens humanity. According to him, humans face three key threats, but it is AI that should be feared most of all, the expert said. 

Tallinn explained that at the moment, no one can predict what development AI will achieve in the next decades. In addition, the fact that scientists are creating artificial intelligence that can form a new AI without human intervention is also a cause for concern.

In addition, as the co-founder of the popular video calling service noted, the development of synthetic biology also causes concern. According to him, this direction in science allows the creation of artificial DNA sequences and biological systems that may not exist in nature.

Tallinn also drew attention to the fact that he fears we are entering an era of “unknown unknowns”, things that people are not even able to imagine right now.

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Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented

Volkswagen robot will autonomously charge cars: a working prototype presented 91
Copyright: © VW

The renowned German car manufacturer announced a new development. This time, engineers have created a unique robot capable of autonomously charging electric vehicles. 

For more than a year, specialists have been developing this project, but only now the concern was ready to demonstrate the first working prototype. The robot is ready to charge electric vehicles and has shown the high efficiency of this process.

It is called the Mobile Charging Robot, and experts have already compared it to the R2-D2 droid from Star Wars, including squeaks and clangs. Indeed, there is a similarity. Before implementing this idea, the engineers decided that robots should be allowed to charge cars parked in large residential complexes.

This will save their owners from leaving in order to find a gas station. Another advantage is that large parking lots and garages do not have to contain several expensive charging points for electric cars. The car company said in a press release that the robot works exclusively autonomously.

It independently controls and interacts with the vehicle being charged. It opens the cover of the charging socket and independently connects the power plug, then disconnects it. The robot looks like a trailer, which is a mobile energy storage.

It is capable of charging multiple electric vehicles at the same time. Despite the fact that the manufacturer confidently praises its concept, experts saw inefficiency in the fact that first it is necessary to charge the robot’s battery, which is then used to recharge electric cars.

Volkswagen Group Components CEO Thomas Schmall noted that creating an efficient charging infrastructure for the cars of the future is an important step in the company’s development.

Its engineers focus on finding solutions to avoid costly do-it-yourself measures. The mobile robot is only part of the concept that will continue to be developed.

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