Alaskan farmers are growing a plant used for top-secret Soviet military experiments .

A collective of Alaskan farmers have begun growing a stubby Siberian plant with a secret history of medicinal powers, and they hope it could become one of the state’s most valuable crops.

The Rhodiola Rosea plant, also known as golden root, is native to Siberia, and grows throughout the Altai mountain ranges, which serve as a boundary between China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan. It’s a hardy plant suited to cold temperatures, and grows in permafrost, which is a layer of soil beneath the surface where temperatures have been continuously below freezing for several years.


So far, the plant seems right at home in Alaska: “It’s actually an environment that the plant wants to grow in, as opposed to everything else we grow,” agricultural scientist Stephen Brown from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in the US, told Sarah Laskow from Atlas Obscura.

“It’ll grow in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. It wants our long days. It’s already coming up out of the ground – and the ground’s still frozen.”

The appeal of golden root for Alaskan farmers is the potential to make substantially higher profits per acre than by selling other staple crops grown in the region, such as potatoes, reports Laskow. This is largely due to a plethora of perceived health benefits to be gained from the plant’s extracts.

Golden root has been used for centuries in traditional medicines and teas in Siberia and China, where people have long claimed that the plant had the potential to treat seasonal depression, improve strength and endurance, protect against altitude sickness, and act as an aphrodisiac – particularly for women.

As early as the 1940s, and throughout the Cold War, the plant became the subject of Soviet military investigations – though the extent of this research, and what was discovered remains somewhat foggy.

Petra Illig, a pilot and medical doctor who founded the cooperative of golden root farmers in Alaska – called Alaska Rhodiola Products – told Laskow the plant “was considered a Soviet military secret.”

“Most of what was done back then was unpublished and hidden in drawers in Moscow. They used it for the physical and mental performance of their soldiers and athletes,” she said, adding that she’s also confirmed it was tested on cosmonauts.

Western medicine only began to seriously investigate the plant in 2007 after a clinical trial in Armenia showed that 500 milligrams of golden root extract had the potential to help treat mild to moderate depression.

In 2013, researchers at the University of California-Irvine showed that it might also hold some promise for keeping us young.

They found when fruit flies were fed extracts of the root they lived 24 percent longer than their otherwise healthy peers – an average of about three days longer. They also found that it could extend the lifespan of yeast and worms, and published their results in the journal PLOS One.

“Potentially, humans – healthy or not – could live longer by consuming this root,” lead author and pharmacologist Mahtab Jafari said in a press release at the time. “So far, we’ve only seen the effect in flies, worms and yeast. But nothing quite like this has been observed before.”

Although the plant has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for any ailments, Laskow from Atlas Obscura says, “sales are growing in American health food markets, and even faster in US mainstream markets, where it’s been newly introduced.”

The farmers working on cultivating the plant currently have about 5 acres and are trying to expand this. “At 200 acres, it would be the most valuable crop in the state,”Brown said.

Scientists have found a way to switch on a dormant gene in human red blood cells

Scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have used a world-first technique to change a single letter of DNA in human red blood cells, triggering them to produce more oxygen-carrying haemoglobin.

The technique could lead to new treatments for sickle cell anaemia and other life-threatening blood disorders. And the best part is, it does it by activating a naturally occurring gene that’s normally dormant after birth.

“An exciting new age of genome editing is beginning, now that single genes within our vast genome can be precisely cut and repaired,” study leader and Dean of Science at UNSW, Merlin Crossley, said in a press statement. “Our laboratory study provides a proof of concept that changing just one letter of DNA in a gene could alleviate the symptoms of sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia – inherited diseases in which people have damaged haemoglobin.”

The research was done in the lab, but because the researchers simply switched on a genetic variation that already exits in nature, Crossley explains that the approach should, in theory, be effective and safe to use in humans. “However, more research is needed before it can be tested in people as a possible cure for serious blood diseases,” he added.

Haemoglobin is the vital protein found in red blood cells that picks up oxygen from our lungs and transports it around the body. Throughout our lives we produce two different kinds: foetal haemoglobin – which is able to quickly suck up oxygen from our mothers’ blood – and adult haemoglobin.

But the problem is that mutations in adult haemoglobin are extremely common, with around five percent of the world’s population carrying a mutant gene. Carrying just one of these isn’t so bad, but if someone inherits mutant haemoglobin genes from both their parents, it can severely damage haemoglobin production and cause life-threatening conditions, such as sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia.

However, a small group of these people also inherit a third mutation in their foetal haemoglobin, which results in it being produced after birth, and as a result, their symptoms are greatly reduced. “This good mutation keeps their foetal haemoglobin gene switched on for the whole of their lives, and reduces their symptoms significantly,” said Crossley.

To try to recreate this beneficial mutation, the team used genome-editing proteins known as TALENs, which cut a gene at a specific point and then drop off the desired piece of DNA to be inserted. The cell then naturally tries to heal the DNA by patching it up with spare DNA lying around – in this case, it just so happens to be the piece left there by the researchers.

“We exploited this effect. When our genome editing protein cuts the DNA, the cell quickly replaces it with the donor DNA that we have also provided,” said Crossley.

Publishing their results in Nature Communications, the team reports that this change allowed human red blood cells in the lab to produce more haemoglobin.

If the same genome-editing technique is shown to work effectively and safely in humans, it could greatly help to reduce the symptoms of sickle cell anaemia and other blood disorders. Importantly, this genetic change wouldn’t be inherited, so would be less controversial than other gene editing techniques, such as the editing of human embryonic DNA by Chinese scientists.

Of course, we’re a long way off trialling this technique in humans, but it’s pretty exciting to think that there could be a way of turning on (and off) natural genes that are dominant in our genomes. The potential is huge.

The Sixth Mass Extinction of Fauna and Flora is Imminent, Duke University Study Reveals | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

A new study has revealed that extinction rates for plants and animals are currently 1,000 times higher than they were before humans arrived. The rate is so high, in fact, that the planet hasn’t seen anything like it since the dinosaurs were wiped out in a mass extinction event 65 million years ago. If we don’t take measures to address the situation, the lead scientist for the project, biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University, says that we are heading for a sixth mass extinction.

The study was published in the journal Science by a team of seven scientists. It focuses on the annual rate of extinctions per one million species rather than the number of species lost each year. This allows scientist to compare extinction rates from different periods in the earth’s history with the aid of fossil records and DNA evidence.

Revisiting a report that Dr Pimm worked on in 1995, the team discovered new data which showed that past figures were incorrect and the prehuman extinction rate was actually only 0.1 species per million per year, not one per year as previously believed. Currently, the extinction rate is between 100 and 1,000 species per million per year. The team points the finger at climate change, habitat destruction, invasive species and overfishing as the primary causes of such an elevated rate.

Knowing the causes gives us hope, claims Pimm. With the aid of modern technology and as an interim measure, we can identify and monitor at-risk species and work to protect them, either through habitat protection, modifying our behavior in cases of overharvesting, and working on captive breeding programs. These won’t halt the larger issue of climate changethough, and without action on that front, we may just end up joining the queue for mass extinction along with everything else.

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Achalasia:A Systematic ReviewAchalasiaAchalasia

Importance  Achalasia significantly affects patients’ quality of life and can be difficult to diagnose and treat.

Objective  To review the diagnosis and management of achalasia, with a focus on phenotypic classification pertinent to therapeutic outcomes.

Evidence Review  Literature review and MEDLINE search of articles from January 2004 to February 2015. A total of 93 articles were included in the final literature review addressing facets of achalasia epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes. Nine randomized controlled trials focusing on endoscopic or surgical therapy for achalasia were included (734 total patients).

Findings  A diagnosis of achalasia should be considered when patients present with dysphagia, chest pain, and refractory reflux symptoms after an endoscopy does not reveal a mechanical obstruction or an inflammatory cause of esophageal symptoms. Manometry should be performed if achalasia is suspected. Randomized controlled trials support treatments focused on disrupting the lower esophageal sphincter with pneumatic dilation (70%-90% effective) or laparoscopic myotomy (88%-95% effective). Patients with achalasia have a variable prognosis after endoscopic or surgical myotomy based on subtypes, with type II (absent peristalsis with abnormal pan-esophageal high-pressure patterns) having a very favorable outcome (96%) and type I (absent peristalsis without abnormal pressure) having an intermediate prognosis (81%) that is inversely associated with the degree of esophageal dilatation. In contrast, type III (absent peristalsis with distal esophageal spastic contractions) is a spastic variant with less favorable outcomes (66%) after treatment of the lower esophageal sphincter.

Conclusions and Relevance  Achalasia should be considered when dysphagia is present and not explained by an obstruction or inflammatory process. Responses to treatment vary based on which achalasia subtype is present.

5 Interesting Reasons to Sleep Naked

Not everybody enjoys sleeping in their birthday suit, but perhaps more would partake if they knew some of the amazing benefits can accompany the practice. Sleeping entirely naked cannot only be extremely comfortable once you get used to it, but it can also greatly improve your health among other things. Following are five of the more lesser-known beneficial effects that sleeping naked can have for you.

1. Self-esteem boost. Sleeping in the nude can help you feel more comfortable with your body and have a subtle yet positive impact on your self-esteem, in turn offering an improvement to your mental health. This can in turn lead to an improved sense of confidence within your day-to-day life and even allow you to feel happier overall.

2. Improved skin health. One of the more obvious benefits to sleeping naked is on the skin, which is essentially freed from the confines of your clothing and allowed to breathe freely as you sleep. This can improve the overall health of your skin, and is particularly helpful for those that suffer from some form of body acne who may experience the most relief of their condition from sleeping naked in addition to medications and other forms of treatment.

3. Relationship boost with your partner. Skin-to-skin contact allows for the release of the hormone oxytocin, which can have a huge impact on your relationship with your partner. Among the relationship and other health-related benefits of oxytocin release are counteraction against depression and stress along with reduction in blood pressure and intestinal inflammation. As oxytocin is only released through skin-to-skin contact, failing to sleep naked can hinder your ability to reap its benefits.

4. Anti-aging effects. Sleeping clothed keeps your body temperature a lot warmer, which has the unfortunate effect of failing to allow your body to properly release growth hormones that work to repair skin damage. By sleeping naked and allowing your body temperature to drop while you sleep, your skin can repair itself much more efficiently and therefore potentially prevent wrinkling and other effects of aging.

5. Preventative effects against disease. Perhaps one of the most surprising benefits of sleeping naked is the fact that it can help prevent the onset of some serious diseases. One of these happens to be Type 2 Diabetes, has science has come to show that a lowered body temperature during sleep can lessen the risk of acquiring the disease. This is primarily backed up through the scientific journal Diabetes, which found through its study that sleeping naked in combination with allowing for a cooler room temperature during sleep provided this preventative effect.


Surprise: Having a few drinks makes YOU more attractive

When you drink a lot of alcohol, everyone looks slightly more beautiful, (or at least less objectionable) and you’re more likely to walk up to someone you normally wouldn’t approach. But how is this possible?

A group of alcohol consumers were asked to complete an attractiveness-rating task

To find out more about this phenomenon, researchers of the University of Bristolasked a group of “alcohol consumers” (20 women and 20 men) to complete an attractiveness-rating task. The volunteers were presented images of individuals photographed while sober, after having 250ml of wine and after 500ml of wine. They were then asked to rate which image was more attractive.

The result was remarkable, moderate alcohol consumption does increase attraction

The results were surprising, according to recently published research, moderate alcohol consumption increases attractiveness. Not only do tipsy people think others are more attractive – even the sober people appear to like people who have had a drink or two more. However, whereas moderate alcohol consumption did increase the attractiveness, the effect disappears… the more you get off the rails, shall we say..

A lightly glowing face is associated to an healthy and attractive person

But why should we become more attractive after having a drink? The scientists believe it probably has something to do with that your blood vessels dilate slightly, causing a light blush on your face. A slightly glowing face is something we interpret as healthy and attractive. (Unless, you know, it’s the radioactive kind. Though I’m sure some people are into that, too.)

Another reason why someone could be rated as better-looking is the fact that we feel a little bit more relaxed after having a few drinks. This causes our face muscles to relax and smile subtly.

In short, it all comes down to the fact that moderate consumption can give you an advantage, but heavy drinking remains bad for you – and as you can see it’s not only bad for your health.

Using Meditation to Help You Overcome Addiction

Image by Lucas Girs

Mindfulness and Addiction

Addictions generally are the side-effect of a grasping mind. When we try to cling to things beyond our reach or moments in our lives that have passed, it can sometimes lead to negative emotions or trigger unhealthy feelings. Generally, it is when an individual feels excessive helplessness toward situations in his or her life, addictions and other coping mechanisms can form to help deal with the emotions.

Unfortunately, in many cases it can be hard to truly see what is causing the emotions and what we are  grasping for or reaching toward. This is where mindfulness meditation can begin to help with the discovery of the root causes for most addictions.

Meditation and practicing mindfulness can help us learn a greater capacity to see further into ourselves to explore our emotions and thoughts. Life can be full of many confusing and conflicting emotions. On occasion, an individuals core values can be violated by the actions or words of another which can also lead to addiction and the need to cope.

Depression and addiction are two very close relatives who usually take residence at the intersection of hope and desire. Through mindfulness and learning how to focus the mind and its desires, it is much easier to cut through the mental fog that can sometimes cloud the understanding of self and cause the need to drown out our emotions with things or substances. Addictions are not all drug related. Addictions to possession, power, food, sex, money, and many other compulsory behaviors can also benefit from mindfulness and meditation.

Altering the Brain Through Meditation

For a number of years many scientists believed that once the human brain entered adulthood and beyond it could not grow or change. They believed that neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to create new structures and learn) was reduced after childhood. With new research in the field of neuroscience, we now know that the brain never loses its ability to grow new structures as we age. However, some parts can become atrophied from a simple lack of use.

Over 1,000 studies have been  published proving the  health effects  of meditation.  Research by Sara Lazar, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, shows that through the practice of mindfulness meditation the brain becomes thicker. Her research has shown the pre-frontal cortex and the mid-insular regions of the brain become larger and more active with meditative practices. Her research, in addition to the work of others in the fields of science and medicine, has shown that when you begin to change your thoughts and habits the brain will develop new pathways. This means that it is possible to change the brain’s pathways and its impulses through intention and mindful attention.  If the desire is there to end an addiction, meditation may provide a successful solution.

This woman got pregnant from having anal sex

Well, luckily, that’s because about 999,999 times in a million, it can’t. When Brian Steixner, M.D., a urologist with the Jersey Urology Group in Atlantic City, was in med school, though, he witnessed the “lucky” one in a million.

One night, a young, pregnant woman came into the emergency department complaining of spotting. While it’s relatively common for women to have light spotting during pregnancy, the blood was coming from her rectum. That—not so common.

The woman was born with what’s called a cloacal malformation. Meaning: When she was born, she didn’t have a urethra, vagina, and anus. She just had one hole, called a cloaca. (FYI, birds have them.) The condition is incredibly rare, occurring in about one in 25,000 female live births, says Steixner (and it only occurs in girls—lucky us). While no one knows what causes it, it’s usually diagnosed at birth and repaired right away so that the baby has a separate urethra, vagina, and rectum.

That’s what happened in this woman’s case. However, something went wrong. Either the surgery was botched or in response to the trauma of surgery, her body formed a fistula (an abnormal connection between organs), and her uterus fused to her rectum. So every month when Aunt Flo came to town, she had her period rectally. Meanwhile, her vagina was a dead-end leading nowhere.

Crazy, right? During Steixner’s conversation with the woman, he says that she mentioned that she exclusively had anal sex prior to getting pregnant. Well then, that would explain it: She got pregnant through anal sex. “It blew my mind,” he says. A few months later, she had a C-section (the doctors didn’t think she should attempt to “poop” out the baby), and the child was healthy, he says.

Steixner says he doesn’t know what happened to the woman after she had the baby. And while the case of a woman getting pregnant through anal sex due to a cloacal malformation is incredibly rare, being born with a cloaca can be incredibly difficult, even if it is repaired at birth.

“Building the walls to separate the three passages [the urethra, vagina, and rectum] is delicate work,” he says. “The longer the walls need to be built, the closer surgeons get to the urethral and anal sphincters. Some women suffer from leakage of urine and stool their entire lives. It’s a huge psychological and quality of life issue.”

This woman got pregnant from having anal sex
However, since you’re probably wondering, even if the urethra and anus don’t work 100 percent perfectly after cloacal repairs, everything—vagina included—does look pretty “normal.” Of course, no two vaginas look the same (true story!), but chances are, no guy would ever be down there, pause, and ask, “What happened here?”

Polysis is marketing a plastic that turns to clay

Polysis is showing a plastic that can turn to clay when heated, according to a story on DigInfo TV. Polysis is described as a specialist developer of polyurethane resins and resin products, and they are marketing haplafreely, presented with a lower-case “h,” as a plastic that turns to clay when heated to temperatures above 60 degrees Centigrade.

Immerse the product in hot water—or heat it with a heat gun—and you find that the plastic is easy to shape, yet hardens again as it cools—and returns to its original hardness by the time it reaches room temperature.

Takato Mori, development division of Polysis, said the product remains in its state—staying malleable— five to 10 times longer than other products.”It also has a tensile strength,” he said, “three times greater than ordinary rubber, making it hard to break.”

It’s not difficult to peel off haplafreely; it won’t stick easily to other materials, according to DigInfo TV. It is softer than other . As a cover material, it will not damage the product to which it is applied.

Promoted benefits include cutting costs. One does not have to think about thermal design or processing; the product can be formed into different shapes without them. “When heated, it will return to clay time and time again, making it ideal as a way of reducing costs in production line jigs.”

Real-world uses? The presentation suggested haplafreely as a cover for various components. Mori said haplafreely can be used to form bases on which to place unstable objects. For example, engine components need to be placed on a base for stability. Another case, he said, might be where motorcycle handlebars need to be worked on with a screwdriver. Haplafreey can be used in large quantities for protective covering.

Polysis is currently selling haplafreely in sheets measuring 40cm x 40cm and 4mm in thickness, and is aiming for monthly sales of 1,000 sheets, but haplafreely is also available in roll form, in thicknesses ranging from 0.6mm to 1.0mm.

The DigInfo TV report stated that “Polysis has received many requests from users for products that become soft at 70, 80 or 100°C, and will begin developing these this year.”

Commenting, Lee Mathews in said the product was “noteworthy for its ability to become malleable with a minimal amount of heat applied.” He said haplafreely could make a difference on production lines. “If parts can be molded at a lower temperature, that means reduced energy use and shorter production times, which ultimately turns into either savings for you and me or higher profit margins for the producer. Or maybe even both.”

What’s The Teen Pregnancy Rate In U.S.?

How have different approaches in sex education contributed to the discrepant teen pregnancy rates in certain industrialized nations?

According to data from the World Bank, European countries tend to have the lowest rate of teen pregnancies. Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, among others, had fewer than 4 teen births per thousand babies born. What accounts for these numbers? Experts point to the generally progressive approach to sexual education in the countries listed above as well as Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium, all of which reported between 5 and 6 teen births per thousand people. Teachers in these countries tend to put less emphasis on the dangers of sex. Instead, they gear the curriculum to teach sex as a normal, healthy, positive act.

On the other hand, the U.S. reported around 30 teen births per thousand. Sex-Ed in the U.S. tends to veer toward repressive and cautionary teachings. Many states rely on abstinence-only curriculum, which prevents students from learning about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. It should be noted this is not necessarily a causal relationship between sexual education policy and teen birth rate, but shouldn’t all students be entitled to clear, comprehensive information, just as they are with other subjects?

Learn More:
World Bank Data On Adolescent Fertility Rate (World Bank)

Comprehensive sexuality education: the challenges and opportunities of scaling-up (UNESCO)
“Coverage alone is not a sufficient measure of scaling-up. The quality of programmes offered is critical if young people are to gain the knowledge they need, as well as the skills and values necessary to prevent HIV and lead healthy and fulfilling lives”

International Guidelines on Sexuality Education: An evidence informed approach to effective sex, relationships and HIV/STI education (Council of Europe)
“Effective sexuality education can provide young people with age-appropriate, culturally relevant and scientifically accurate information. It includes structured opportunities for young people to explore their attitudes and values, and to practise the skills they will need to be able to make informed decisions about their sexual lives.”

Advancing Sexuality Education in Developing Countries: Evidence and Implications (Guttmacher Institute)
“The quality and quantity of evaluation research in this field has improved dramatically over the last decade, and there is now clear evidence that sexuality education programs can help young people to delay sexual activity and improve their contraceptive use when they begin to have sex.”