Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Carbon Monoxide...for Health?

Wait long enough and scientists will discover that what’s supposed to be bad for you is actually good for you (coffee, caffeine, wine) and vice versa (soy, vitamin e supplements, 100-calorie snacks).

Now we can add a new one to the former category: carbon monoxide. You know, those toxic, deadly fumes we’re not supposed to inhale from car exhaust or cigarette smoke. Apparently, the poisonous effects of CO (to limit blood's ability to transport by binding itself to the hemoglobin in our red blood cells) now have a POSITIVE side--on patients undergoing heart bypass surgery or those susceptible to muscle injury due to "ischemia," where blood supply is restricted because of dysfunctional blood vessels ! There are 2 studies suggesting this:

Let’s take the first study by researchers from Mass. General Hospital in Boston: that will be presented to the Vascular Annual Meeting in June. They studied mice who were suffering from the onset of ischemia where their blood flow was stopping in an isolated area of a limb. But when the mice inhaled a low dose of CO, scientists discovered reduced musculature damage when the blood supply returned to the tissue. Why? The CO inhalation actually decreased fiber injury by reducing the  local and systemic levels of proinflammatory markers, aka cytokines. (Sorry so jargony; now I can exhale).

The second study, administered in the department of anesthesiology at the University Medical Centre in Freiburg, Germany, and published in the journal Anesthesiology, found that inhalation of low-levels of CO can actually reduce lung inflammation to again, promote cell survival in patients undergoing cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. The low dose of CO reduced inflammation, and consequent injury, by slowing down how much blood pumps through a part of the body so not to invoke more damage.

What's next? Nicotine as an age-defying?

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