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Therapeutic role found for carbon monoxide

In a medical case of Jekyll and Hyde, carbon monoxide ?the highly toxic gas emitted from auto exhausts and faulty heating systems ?has proven effective in treating the symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), an extremely debilitating condition that typically leads to right heart failure and eventual death.

The new findings, made in an animal study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the University of Pittsburgh, are described in the September 2006 issue of The Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM).

The paradoxical theory that carbon monoxide (CO), the colorless, odorless gas often dubbed "the silent killer," could be used to prevent the onset of certain inflammatory conditions was first proposed in 1998. Since then, numerous studies have shown that when administered at low, non-toxic concentrations prior to such procedures as organ transplant surgery or balloon angioplasty, CO provides potent protective effects against organ rejection or blockage of the carotid arteries.

But, with these latest findings, explains senior author Leo Otterbein, PhD, it now appears that carbon monoxide can also be used to treat and reverse existing disease.

"Our results offer the exciting possibility that in extremely low concentrations and for brief intermittent exposures of one hour per day, CO gas might be effectively used as a therapy to treat PAH in a clinical setting," says Otterbein, an investigator in the Transplantation Center at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Pulmonary arteries ?the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart's right ventricle to the small arteries in the lungs -- are made up primarily of endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells. PAH develops when, for unknown reasons, the smooth muscle cells rapidly and uncontrollably proliferate, leading to "remodeling," in which blood vessel walls thicken and gradual stenosis of the arteries occurs. U
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Source:Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center


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