Hardly anyone is familiar with acrolein. Others terms used for this substance like propenal, acrylaldehyde or aqualin sound a bit more poisonous though. It develops during oxidation of organic compounds, e. g. during the burning of fat due to overheating. You can find it in diesel exhaust fumes and tobacco smoke. Acrolein smells noisome and is very toxic.
But the body is capable of producing it itself, if – due to injuries or diseases – nerve cells get damaged. Acrolein is considered carcinogenic and works, according to latest findings, also neurotoxic.
Oxidative stress as main cause for MS
Riyi Shi, neuro-scientist at the Purdue University in Indiana/USA, and his colleagues found an acrolein level increased by 60 percent during an experimentally produced autoimmune encephalomyelitis in the tissue of the spine marrow of mice. The scientists assume that it is not any different with people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS).
They share the opinion with many other experts that oxidative stress is the main cause for MS. This is confirmed by numerous studies and analyses about this topic. According to that, primarily macrophages produce excessive amounts of reactive oxygen which is considered as mediator of demyelination and axonal damages in MS. Free radicals damage cell components like lipids, proteins and nucleic acids – a process which is followed by the destruction of the cell. Most likely the damage increases by a joint appearance of a weakened cellular antioxidative defense in the central nervous system and the vulnerability to oxidative stress. An effective antioxidative therapy could be the solution – thus the assumption.
Hydralazin as radical scavenger
Obviously acrolein supports oxidative stress by inducing the production of free radicals. But it is quite simple to defang the poison. Already in earlier studies, Shi and his colleagues found out that Hydralazin works effectively against the death of nerve cells caused by acrolein. Hydralazin is not only a vessel dilatator but also a radical scavenger. It binds to acrolein and neutralizes the poison. Hydralazin slowed down the start of the disease in the animals suffering from MS and it reduced the severity of symptoms. Side effects did not occur, also due to the fact that even very small doses are sufficient to bind acrolein.
This increased the hope of the researchers to be able to develop new neuron-protective treatments finding their way into the hospital soon. The researchers observed a halving of the acrolein level in the mice suffering from MS after the therapy with oral Hydralazin. It also might be suitable for a long-term therapy of MS patients.
More studies planned
It’s known that Hydralazin is an effective radical scavenger and that it binds acrolein; it has been topic of a study made by Australian scientists years ago. Another group of researchers recently has proven that acrolein also damages liver cells. Here Hydralazin was effective as well.
Further studies are planned now to identify more substances which bind to acrolein as well as serve the improvement of sensitivity of examination methods for measuring the toxin in patients with MS.