Space Ginseng, Anyone?
Ginseng, a herb with a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, has made its first trip to space and back aboard the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft.
AsianScientist (Aug. 26, 2013) - Ginseng, a herb with a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, has made its first trip to space and back aboard the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft.
Chinese scientists hope that this cosmic trip will lead to ginseng crop varieties with improved yields and added benefits.
In June this year, 150 grams of ginseng seeds were packed onto the Shenzhou-10 and sent to space, where they spent 15 days in June as the manned spacecraft successfully completed an automated docking procedure with the Tiangong-1 space lab.
The seeds were subsequently delivered to a State lab on Friday.
"We hope the space ginseng will be bigger, more resistant to disease and have increased medicinal potency," Zhou Hua, a professor at the Macau University of Science and Technology, the State's top TCM research laboratory, told China Daily.
But it may take as many five years for the ginseng plants to mature, explained Prof. Zhou, and six generations of cultivation to reveal any potential enhanced characteristics.
"Thirty years will be too long for us, so we will nurture the ginseng with a tissue culture technique to shorten the process," Zhou added.
Since the 1980s, China has sent other kinds of vegetable seeds and many TCM ingredients to space. During early experiments, Jiang Xingcun, a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, discovered that spaceflight can increase mutation rates by a hundred times over what is experienced on Earth, making artificial genetic modification and the addition of foreign genes unnecessary.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: SnippyHolloW/Flickr/CC.
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