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A Stone That May Help to Recover from a Brain Stroke

Joint project of St.-Petersburg Mining museum and Forpost Nord-West.
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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

While this stone can help in curing cancer or with recovery from a heart stroke, it can, on the opposite, prevent a person from resisting the mildest diseases. Its name is magnetite.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Magnetite is mostly known because of its unique property, called magnetism. Naturally-magnetised pieces of this mineral - lodestones - attract iron and may also be of help in navigation since they define north and south poles of the Earth. People of China had been using them in primitive navigation devices yet before the Common Era. The compass they created was indeed very different from its modern version. It comprised of a wooden or copper plate and a magnetite spoon placed on the top of it. The spoon had to be spun then to make the device point to the south.

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Фото © wikimedia.org

In the olden days, such unusual stone was thought to definitely possess some mystical features. Ancient Chinese chronicles say there was a magic gate through which armed people could not pass. The gateway was in fact decorated with a mineral that drew to it iron swords, knives and axes brought by the enemies. Alexander the Great, in turn, used to give out magnetite pieces to his warriors, believing the stone would protect them from battle injuries.

Magnetite also found use in entertainment. Ancient Greek illusionists had a trick they performed to show the wonders of levitation. The iron objects started flying around, but in reality, there were small pieces of the mineral hidden at the edges of those objects.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

There are also some mentions that people believed in magnetite's healing properties. For instance, Cleopatra, the ruler of Egypt, had numerous jewel items with this mineral, for she hoped it could help her stay young. The Chinese were treating anaemia and patients suffering from blood loss with magnetite powder. In ancient India, the same powder was applied to extract arrow fragments from the wounds.

There are actually some areas of medicine where the stone may still be useful. As such, magnetite probes assist in extracting foreign objects out of the human body. Thanks to its magnetic properties and low toxicity, magnetite can be utilised in the fight against cancer. Mineral nanoparticles get transferred to an area where a malignant tumour is localised and then heated in a variable magnetic field. As a result, tumour cells become destroyed while healthy cells remain undamaged.

Similarly, a medication based on magnetic nanoparticles and certain enzymes allows faster recovery from a heart or brain stroke. The medicine is to be carried to the inflamed area to prevent tissues from further destruction.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Large magnetite clusters, to the contrary, impact human health rather negatively. One great example would be the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly (KMA), at the territory of which the world's biggest deposits of iron ores are located. The connection between the area's proximity and health indicators of the local population was established back in the 1980s. And the whole situation is quite alarming as those inhabitants who live closer to the KMA are more acceptive to infectious diseases. Treatment duration is usually longer; health complications arise more often as well.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Surprisingly, there is a purpose for magnetite in wildlife. It helps living creatures to move in space. As an example, pigeons have magnetite particles in their beak. They supposedly make the bird choose the right flight direction.