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Genetic Disorder May Hold Key to Heat Stroke Cure
Date:4/3/2008

Some antioxidants may protect people like athletes, soldiers from fatal temperature rise

THURSDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- The key to curing heat stroke may have been found in a genetic disorder that causes people under general anesthesia to suffer a deadly rise in body temperature, according to a new report.

The findings, published in the April 4 issue of Cell, also suggest that certain antioxidants may help protect people genetically prone to heat stroke.

Excessive heat exposure has caused 8,000 deaths in the United States since 1979, more than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ongoing U.S. military operations in desert environments overseas have piqued interest in heat stroke prevention and cure.

"Along with cardiac abnormalities, heat stroke is a major culprit in unexpected sudden deaths of otherwise fit, young athletes and soldiers," study co-author Robert T. Dirksen, an associate professor of pharmacology and physiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York, said in a prepared statement. "With a better knowledge of these mechanisms, we can begin to better diagnose and treat both disorders, and hopefully, save some lives."

Researchers at four universities and the U.S. Army linked the development of heat stroke and the genetic and protein defects that cause malignant hyperthermia (MH), an inherited condition that occurs in one in about 10,000 adult patients undergoing general anesthesia. During MH bouts, the acid content of a patient's blood and tissues becomes altered and heart rate increases, causing muscle rigidity and a rapid rise in body temperature that can result in kidney failure and potentially fatal heart arrhythmias.

MH reactions can be treated with the drug dantrolene, which causes muscles to relax, the researchers said.

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