Resveratrol may protect the heart from arsenic and chemotherapy toxicity

March 28, 2008

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.