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Scientists Work on New Nerve Agent Treatment

April 8, 2011


Researchers in Ohio are developing a new treatment that would counteract the effects of exposure to deadly organophosphorus nerve agents, according to a Tuesday release from Ohio State University (see GSN, July 25, 2007).

Nerve agents can cause uncontrollable muscle spasms and other physical effects that can prove lethal in a matter of minutes.

Existing treatments counteract the material by inserting oxime compounds that adhere to the nerve agent’s phosphorous atoms and block their effects on a key enzyme from which constant activation messages would otherwise produce the spasms through transmission to muscles, organs and glands in the body. Complete recovery from exposure, though, is not always guaranteed as some nerve agent molecules can be remain attached to enzymes.

Ohio State chemistry professor Christopher Hadad and a team of scientists are using the Ohio Supercomputer Center in studying potential compounds that would allow the body to regenerate the enzymes that have been “aged” due to exposure to organophosphorus chemicals. The healed enzymes would then be receptive to the oxime compounds that would allow a full recovery.

The research looks at a number of chemical warfare materials, including VX, sarin and soman, according to the release.

“This project is a combination of synthetic and computational organic chemistry conducted through OSC at Ohio State, and biochemical studies conducted by colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland,” Hadad said in the release (Ohio State University release, April 5/News-Medical.Net).

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