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article imageFast-Acting Cyanide Antidote Discovered

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By Chris V. Thangham     Jan 3, 2008 in Health
University of Minnesota researchers have discovered a fast-acting antidote that will reverse cyanide poisoning. They claim it works much faster than current antidotes and has a longer window of time in which it can be administered.
After an incidence of cyanide poisoning, if a patient is not administered an antidote within minutes, it will turn deadly. That is until University of Minnesota researchers discovered an antidote that can work even when administered late. The new antidote will reportedly help medical personnel to treat the patients more effectively than using current antidotes available on the market.
Also, the antidotes prescribed must work effectively within three minutes. The United States Department of Defense calls it a “three minute solution” standard. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Center for Drug Design and Minneapolis VA Medical Center who discovered this new antidote say it works in less than three minutes and faster than many existing cyanide antidotes.
Steven Patterson, Ph. D., principal investigator and associate director of the University of the Minnesota Center for Drug Design is developing this antidote, originally discovered by the retired University of Minnesota Professor Herbert Nagasawa. He said their antidote is superior in two major ways: It is much faster than existing antidotes, and also effective over a wider time window.
Patterson told Science Daily: "Giving emergency responders more time is important because it's not likely that someone will be exposed to cyanide near a paramedic."The antidote has so far been tested on animals and was found to be effective. They hope to begin human clinical trials during the next three years.
The new antidote can also be administered orally (others can be given by intravenous means only) and can be used up to an hour prior to cyanide exposure, giving enough time for emergency workers to arrive and treat a patient.
As Science Daily reports: "Cyanide is a rapid acting toxin that inhibits cellular respiration -- it prevents the body from using oxygen. This means it rapidly shuts down many of the fundamental biochemical processes the body needs to survive. Symptoms of acute cyanide poisoning include headache, vertigo, lack of motor coordination, weak pulse, abnormal heartbeat, vomiting, stupor, convulsions, coma, and even death."Cyanide exposure in an enclosed area is deadlier and affects a victim very quickly. This scenario can be seen in a terrorist attack situation. Those who survive cyanide poisoning suffer from short-term memory loss and may develop a Parkinson’s-like syndrome.
As Science Daily reports: "The antidote has potential to save lives of those who are exposed to the chemical -- namely firefighters, industrial workers, and victims of terrorist attacks."The antidote works in a similarly to the body's natural mechanism when it is exposed to cyanide in small amounts. Cyanide occurs naturally in pitted fruits and some food, and the body is able to detoxify small amounts of cyanide in food.
As Science Daily reports: "The new antidote takes advantage of this natural detoxification pathway by providing the substance the body naturally uses to convert cyanide to non-toxic thiocyanate."The research is featured in the Dec. 27, 2007 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The study is being funded by a five-year grant from the National Institute of Health.
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