Every winter people die from carbon monoxide poisoning, yet the only treatment we have was developed half a century ago. It involves giving the victim high pressure oxygen, but doesn�t always work in severe CO poisoning.
Scientists may have now stumbled onto an antidote with a protein called neuroglobin which is found naturally in the brain and retina. Lab studies revealed neuroglobin works by tightly binding to CO thereby limiting its effect. Carbon monoxide poisoning is lethal because it binds to the hemoglobin in our blood. This blocks hemoglobin�s ability to bind to oxygen and deliver it to cells around the body. Deprived of oxygen, our tissues start to die and our organs suffer, especially the heart and brain because they need the most oxygen.
However, when researchers injected neuroglobin, into mice within five minutes of giving them lethal doses of CO, almost ninety percent of the rodents survived. Scientists watched as their blood pressure returned to normal and their vital signs stabilized. These mice received an engineered form of neuroglobin which binds CO five hundred times more tightly than CO does to hemoglobin. In essence, its bond is so tight, neuroglobin was able to rip the CO from the hemoglobin, freeing the hemoglobin to bind to oxygen and do its job of delivering oxygen to organs.
The treatment is far from human trials and there�s also the challenge of producing large amounts of the protein. But this is the first promising advance of carbon monoxide treatment in fifty years.
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An antidote for carbon monoxide poisoning?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Gladwin says, has already promised an expedited review of the treatment given that CO poisoning is a �serious unmet need.�
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Frequently Asked Questions
Carbon monoxide, or �CO,� is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you.
What is the function of neuroglobin?
For a long time, haemoglobin and myoglobin had been assumed to represent the only globin types of vertebrates...