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Scientist has success with scorpion

Update: September, 20/2014 - 12:00

A scientist who is very interested in scorpions has found a way to take the poison out of the dangerous creatures.

She has used this poison to make medicines that can help people who are in pain.

People call her the "scorpion doctor".

That is because she is so interested in scorpions and has worked so hard with them.

Voracious eaters: According to Anh, 500 scorpions could eat 1kg of crickets. If they got too hungry, they would eat each other.
Voracious eaters: According to Anh, 500 scorpions could eat 1kg of crickets. If they got too hungry, they would eat each other. -  VNS Photo

By My Dung 

People call Hoang Ngoc Anh a "scorpion doctor" because she found a way to produce pain reduction cream using their venom.

The researcher at the Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology's Institute of Material Science has been fascinated by insects since she was a young girl. Born in the former imperial city of Hue, Anh grew up in Ha Noi, where she excelled at chemistry. After graduating high school in 1969 with high marks, she was sent to study chemistry at the Tashkent University, Uzbekistan.

She thought that different kinds of poisons would be an interesting subject for a PhD thesis because poisonous insects were everywhere in tropical Viet Nam.

After defending her thesis and returning to Viet Nam in 1989, her passion for researching poisonous insects brought her to many locations in southern provinces. When she returned to Ha Noi, she brought home a dozen brown scorpions.

"I wanted to do research on them, but did not know how to take the scorpions' poison out," Anh recalled.

She used French documents to come up with a design for a machine that could do this. Under her direction, the first machine was produced by the Chemistry Department's Structure Office. After that Anh continued to build a process to collect and preserve poisons, co-operating with the Institute of Ecology and Resources.

But during the 1990s, when Viet Nam was facing many difficulties, scientists lacked information and resources for research. Experts at the Institute of Ecology and Resources couldn't make a proper name for Anh's brown scorpions, she recalled.

In 2003, she sent a sample scorpion to famous French classification expert A. Lorenco of the Paris Museum of Nature to make a scientific name for them.

"The professor named my brown scorpions Lychas mucronatus," said Anh.

She began raising scorpions to extract their poisons but many of them died because of the unsuitable climate in Ha Noi. So she decided to move to the southern province of Binh Phuoc. After two months, she raised more than 3,500 scorpions.

"First I raised them in a group in a small box, but I learned that in daylight they killed each other. So I put them into large plastic basins and covered them with dried leaves and fresh grasses," she said.

She also fed them crickets and grasshoppers. According to her, 500 scorpions could eat 1kg of crickets, and the important thing was not to let them get hungry, or they would eat each other.

The work was also not without its dangers for Anh herself. When she was bitten by a scorpion, her right hand was paralysed for half a day. But the inveterate researcher found opportunity even in suffering.

"It forced me to research how to produce a cream to reduce the pain of such bites," Anh said.

Undaunted, she continued her work, moving her family to HCM City in 2006 because the climate was suitable for scorpion breeding and research. The following year, she submitted a research project on using the poisons of grown scorpions for anti-inflammatory and pain reduction medicine to the HCM City Department of Science and Technology for approval.

It was approved and a trial produced 1,000 tubes of cream which were effective in pain reduction, said Le Quan Nghiem, chairman of the Scientific Appraisal Council.

"I hope we can produce the cream on a large scale. It will sell at an affordable price compared with imported items such as Escozine," Nghiem said. — VNS

GLOSSARY

People call Hoang Ngoc Anh a "scorpion doctor" because she found a way to produce pain reduction cream using their venom.

A pain reduction cream can make pain less if people rub it on to themselves.

Venom means poison.

The researcher at the Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology's Institute of Material Science has been fascinated by insects since she was a young girl.

A researcher is someone who studies and finds out all sorts of new things while doing so.

Born in the former imperial city of Hue, Anh grew up in Ha Noi, where she excelled at chemistry. After graduating high school in 1969 with high marks, she was sent to study chemistry at the Tashkent University, Uzbekistan.

An imperial city is one that has a history that goes back to the days of the dynasties.

She thought that different kinds of poisons would be an interesting subject for a PhD thesis because poisonous insects were everywhere in tropical Viet Nam.

A PhD stands for a Philosophy Doctorate. It is a degree people study for at university. A thesis is a project which students do towards earning such degrees.

When she returned to Ha Noi, she brought home a dozen brown scorpions.

A dozen means twelve.

After that Anh continued to build a process to collect and preserve poisons, co-operating with the Institute of Ecology and Resources.

To preserve something means to store it without it getting rotten.

In 2003, she sent a sample scorpion to famous French classification expert A. Lorenco of the Paris Museum of Nature to make a scientific name for them.

Classification involves putting living creatures, including scorpions, into special groups so that it is possible to know exactly what type of creatures they are and how they are related to other creatures.

"The professor named my brown scorpions Lychas mucronatus," said Anh.

Every living creatures has a scientific name, one of which is called a Genus name, the other a Species name. A Genus name is like a family name because similar creatures will also have that name. The Species name describes that particular creature. In this case Lychas is the Genus name and mucronatus is the Species name.

She began raising scorpions to extract their poisons but many of them died because of the unsuitable climate in Ha Noi.

To extract poisons from a scorpion means to take them out of the animal.

When she was bitten by a scorpion, her right hand was paralysed for half a day.

When somebody becomes paralysed their nerves stop working and they are unable to receive and send messages to the brain, which means they cannot move the parts of the body that are paralysed.

But the inveterate researcher found opportunity even in suffering.

Someone who is inveterate has a hobby that he, or she, is not likely to give up.

Undaunted, she continued her work, moving her family to HCM City in 2006 because the climate was suitable for scorpion breeding and research.

To be undaunted means to not be scared off by something.

The following year, she submitted a research project on using the poisons of grown scorpions for anti-inflammatory and pain reduction medicine to the HCM City Department of Science and Technology for approval.

An anti-inflammatory is a type of medicine that stops a part of the body that has become sore from swelling and getting hot and painful.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

1.      Hoang Ngoc Anh brought scorpions back to Viet Nam from Uzbekistan.

2.      Hoang Ngoc Anh was born in Ha Noi.

3.      A professor in France named Hoang Ngoc Anh's brown scorpions Lychas mucronatus.

4.      Scorpions eat crickets and grasshoppers.

5.      Hoang Ngoc Anh has never been bitten by a scorpion.

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2014























 1. False; 2. False; 3. True; 4. True; 5. False.

 

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