New treatment could quickly eliminate carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced when gasoline and other fuels are burned. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in the blood. You can get very sick or even die within minutes.

There are limited treatment options for people with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tim Johnstone, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz, worked to develop an easy-to-administer antidote. He designed small molecules that have many of the characteristics of the active site of hemoglobin, but can bind CO much more tightly than protein.

In the latest study, he and his colleagues described the ability of one of these molecules to bind CO, sequester CO that is already bound to hemoglobin, and rescue red blood cells exposed to CO, all signs promising for a future antidote.

Johnson said, “These are preliminary results, but the hope is to create a point-of-care treatment that can be delivered quickly. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, stomach pain, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Because it mimics the flu, people may experience symptoms without realizing the danger and delay seeking treatment.

Journal reference:

  1. Daniel G. Droege et al. A water-soluble iron-porphyrin complex capable of saving CO-poisoned red blood cells. DOI: 10.1039/D1CC05542A

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