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At Sublethal Doses, Carbon Monoxide Can Save Tissue That Would Otherwise Die

  May, 6 2001 20:47
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Carbon monoxide can be good for you

Although it has long been thought of as poisonous, deadly gas, scientists are now discovering that carbon monoxide (CO) could actually be therapeutic to the body at the right concentrations under conditions.

CO is synthesized by an enzyme called heme oxygenase type 1 (Ho-1) in response to conditions of low oxygen. David Pinsky and colleagues at Columbia University, New York discovered that mice lacking the gene for this enzyme whose lungs have been starved of blood and oxygen were able to recover by inhaling the gas Nature Medicine (Vol. 7, No. 5, 01 May 01). They further discovered that CO activates a system involving soluble guanylate cyclase which in turn supresses plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1). This allows the fibrinolytic cascade of enzmes which break down blood clots to become activated. Thus at sublethal doses, CO can save tissue that would otherwise die.

Christoph Thiemermann from the William Harvey Research Institute in London, adds balance to the research in an accompanying News & Views article, where he advises that the dangers of CO inhalation outweigh the benefits and we should not rush to treat patients with the deadly gas. He also compares the biological function of CO with that of another colorless water-soluble gas that has recently been found to have a major role in cardiovascular physiology-nitric oxide.


Dr. David J. Pinsky
Columbia University
College of Physicians and Surgeons
New York, New York
Tel: +1 212-305-6071
Email: djp5@columbia.edu

Dr. Christoph Thiemermann
The William Harvey Research Institute
St Bartholemews and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Tel: +44 207-982-6119
Fax: +44 207-251-1685
Email: c.thiemermann@mds.qmw.ac.uk

(C) Nature Medicine press release.

Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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