Arsenic trioxide is the most important commercial compound of arsenic, and the
main starting material for arsenic chemistry. It is the highly toxic byproduct
of certain kinds of ore processing, for example gold mining. It is so toxic
it is used to manufacture arsenic-based pesticides, for poison research, as
a wood preservative, and to poison termites. It is absorbed if swallowed or
if inhaled or even through the skin if you touch it.
Arsenic exposure if it doesn’t kill you first causes diarrhea, vomiting
and abdominal pain, convulsions, heart toxicity, and inflammation of the liver
and kidneys. Arsenic causes skin disorders and a number of cancers. When it
was found that vinyl chloride plant workers were contracting the rare liver
cancer, angiosarcoma, became clear to the manufacturers, at least one of these
companies attempted to point the finger at arsenic as the source of the rare
liver cancer. Arsenic is one of the few compounds besides vinyl chloride that
causes angiosarcoma, a good indicator of arsenic's potent cancer causing properties.
Dr. Tom K Hei, associate professor of radiation oncology and public health at
Colombia University College of Physicians and Surgeons has shown that Arsenic
triggers the formation of large quantities of free radicals and these damage
some genes and he reasons that the result is the cancer. Dr Hei was further
able to prevent the mutations to susceptible genes by treating cells with powerful
antioxidants. Pinning the arsenic-induced mutations on free radicals suggests
that people chronically exposed to high levels of arsenic, such as people working
with asbestos, could take antioxidants to reduce their chances of developing
cancer. Dr Hei published his findings in the July 1998 Proceedings of the National
Academy of Science.
Arsenic trioxide is also used to treat drug resistant leukemia in an injectable
form called Trisenox; it is a potent chemotherapeutic agent that causes leukemia
cells to die. The use of Trisenox to treat leukemia is limited because the drug
is severely toxic to the heart causing the death of heart tissue.
In this new study mice were treated with Arsenic Trioxide and their heart function
was monitored and blood was tested for elevations of enzymes that indicate damage
to the heart muscle is occurring. They were supplemented with Resveratrol. With
the strong protection offered by Resveratrol to the cardiac muscle there was
no extreme change in heart rhythm on the heart monitor; there usually is prolongation
of the QT interval. Lengthening of the QT segment occurs due to electrical disturbances
caused by damage to structures called ion channels. These electrical effects
predispose a person to a very fast heart rhythm. The electrical disturbance
can cause fainting and sudden cardiac death. Resveratrol reduced damage to the
heart cells preventing their death. Resveratrol prevented an increase in heart
enzymes and insured ongoing protection by the three antioxidant enzyme systems;
Glutathione, Catalase, and SOD in the heart muscle. Resveratrol greatly improved
the ability of the heart cells to survive. In conclusion Resveratrol significantly
protected the heart from developing dangerous-life threatening electrical disturbances,
prevented structural damage of the heart, protected the heart from free radical
damage and decreased the rate of death of heart muscle cells caused by arsenic
chemotherapy in these animals suggesting it may protect the hearts of cancer
patients from the toxicity of chemo0therapeutic agents. The study is published
in the March 2008 issue of the British Journal of Pharmacology.
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