Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hGC), a hormone produced during pregnancy, is isolated from the urine of pregnant women and used to treat infertility. Since the 1950s, however, it’s also been used as a weight-loss aid—and still is, even though there’s no solid evidence showing it works.
But taking hCG could be worse than just ineffective: A new study shows that doses of the hormone can transmit prions, the misfolded proteins that cause mad cow disease and its human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an invariably fatal form of dementia that riddles the brain with holes (photo).
That’s right: There’s a potential risk of contracting deadly, brain-destroying illness by injecting yourself with proteins taken from other people’s urine—and you won’t even lose weight.
Space travel isn’t exactly known for its culinary pleasures. But astronauts in the future may have a fresh alternative to freeze dried food: A team of Chinese scientists are proposing that silkworms—the mulberry-leaf-munching larvae of silkmoths—can be easily reared on long-term space flights and provide valuable protein (as in, meals) for astronauts.
On missions that may last several years, astronauts will need a sustainable, renewable source of animal protein. Researchers have considered everything from poultry to fish to sea urchin larvae. Chicken, they decided, would require too much room and food, and would generate too much excrement. Fish are too sensitive to water conditions—H20 being of such limited supply in space that astronauts drink recycled urine and sweat.
Silkworms, on the other hand, require minimal space, food, and water, and produce very little excrement. The critters are packed with protein and rich in amino acids (twice the amount in pork and four times the amount in milk and eggs). Even the silk that the pupae use to spin their cocoons can be chemically processed to become edible.