Despite its deadly reputation, the gas carbon monoxide (CO) could actually save lives and boost health in future as a result of leading-edge UK research.
Chemists at the University of Sheffield have discovered an innovative way of using targeted small doses of CO which could benefit patients who have undergone heart surgery or organ transplants and people suffering from high blood pressure.
Although the gas is lethal in large doses, small amounts can reduce inflammation, widen blood vessels, increase blood flow, prevent unwanted blood clotting and even suppress the activity of cells and macrophages* which attack transplanted organs. The researchers have developed innovative water-soluble molecules which, when swallowed or injected, safely release small amounts of CO inside the human body.
Research carried out in the last decade had already highlighted possible advantages, as CO is produced in the body as part of its own natural defensive systems. However, the problem has been finding a safe way of delivering the right dose of CO to the patient. Conventional CO inhalation can run the risk of patients or medical staff being accidentally exposed to high doses. Now for the first time, thanks to chemistry, an answer appears to have been found.
The new CO-releasing molecules (CO-RMs) have been developed in partnership with Dr Roberto Motterlini at Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research (NPIMR) and with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The molecules dissolve in water, so they can be made available in an easy-to-ingest, liquid form that quickly passes into the bloodstream, says Professor Brian Mann, from the University's Department of Chemistry, who led the research. As well as making it simple to control how much CO is introduced into a patients body, it will be possible to refine the design of the molecules so that they target a particular place while leaving the re
|Contact: Natasha Richardson|
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council