"The big clue was the plant itself," says pharmacologist Arthur Grollman of Stony Brook (N.Y.) University. "Once it was appreciated that it contained a potent kidney toxin and human carcinogen, we could get to the bottom of things."
Grollman and colleagues have unraveled a genetic signature left behind by birthwort in cases of cancers and kidney failure, as reported in the March journal of Kidney International. And in upcoming work, they report signs that use of the drug in Chinese medicines may be responsible for Taiwan's sky-high rate of kidney disease.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: email@example.com.