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A novel challenge of nondestructive analysis on OGATA Koan’s sealed medicine by muonic X-ray analysis

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OGATA Koan (1810–63) was a physician and the director of Tekijuku, and he contributed to Western medicine in the late Edo period. Osaka University preserves two of his medicine chests. One of the chests, which was used in his last years (the second chest) contained 22 glass bottles and 6 wooden cylinders. These bottles and cylinders contained formulated medicines; however, about half cannot be opened because of the long-term storage. It is necessary to comprehend the physical property of both the containers and their contents for investigation of this adequate preservation method; however, destructive analysis is not allowed. To analyze the medicines sealed in the glass bottles, we focused on muonic X-ray analysis, which has high transmittance. First, we certified the analytical methods using a historical medicinal specimen preserved in Osaka University. Thereafter, we applied the method on the bottles stored in the second chest. X-ray fluorescence identified the glass of those bottles to be lead potash glass. Among these bottles, we chose the bottle with the label “甘,” which contains white powdered medication, for muonic X-ray analysis. We identified the contents of the medication in the glass to be Hg2Cl2. Through this study, we first applied muonic X-ray analysis on the medical inheritances and succeeded to detect the elements contained both in the container and in the contents of the sealed bottle. This would be a new method for nondestructive analysis of such cultural properties.

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We sincerely thank to Mr. OHASHI Tetsuro for taking the great pictures of Koan’s medical inheritances. We are grateful to the members of the Tekijuku commemoration center and the Department of Applied Pharmacognosy, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Osaka University for the historical investigation. The authors would like to thank Enago ( for the English language review. The muon experiment at the Materials and Life Science Experimental Facility of the J-PARC was performed under a user program (Proposal No. 2019B0314 and 2014MS01). This work was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) (No. 17H00832) and Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) (No. 18K01102) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

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Correspondence to Kyoko Takahashi.

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Shimada-Takaura, K., Ninomiya, K., Sato, A. et al. A novel challenge of nondestructive analysis on OGATA Koan’s sealed medicine by muonic X-ray analysis. J Nat Med 75, 532–539 (2021).

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