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Botox makes unnerving journey into our nervous system

Botox injections take interesting trip though the nervous system

New research might bring a frown to even the most heavily botoxed faces, with scientists finding how some of the potent toxin used for cosmetic surgery escapes into the central nervous system. Researchers have shown how Botox – also known as Botulinum neurotoxin serotype A – is transported via our nerves back to the central nervous system.

Botox – best known for its ability to smooth wrinkles – has been extremely useful in medicine for the treatment of over-active muscles and spasticity as it promotes local and long-term paralysis. People have been using the deadliest known neurotoxin, Botox, for decades to treat various conditions and for cosmetic purposes.

“The discovery that some of the injected toxin can travel through our nerves is worrying, considering the extreme potency of the toxin,” Professor Frederic Meunier said.

“However, to this day no unwanted effect attributed to such transport has been reported, suggesting that Botox is safe to use,” he said.

“While no side-effects of using Botox medically have been found yet, finding out how this highly active toxin travels to the central nervous system is vital because this pathway is also hijacked by other pathogens such as West Nile or Rabies viruses.”

“A detailed understanding of this pathway is likely to lead to new treatments for some of these diseases.”

The team discovered that most of the toxin is transported to a cellular dump where it is meant to be degraded upon reaching the central nervous system.

“For the first time, we’ve been able to visualise single molecules of Botulinum toxin travelling at high speed through our nerves,” Dr Tong Wang said.

“We found that some of the active toxins manage to escape this route and intoxicate neighbouring cells, so we need to investigate this further and find out how.”

Botox is derived from naturally-occurring sources in the environment and while thought to be safe to use for cosmetic procedures by professionals, this new finding may or may not change that conclusion. In a world where celebrities seem to be pushing the latest health or diet fads like they were professionals or even Doctors, the irony that some or more likely most, are using a neurotoxin (which is the correct usage of the word toxin, huray!) to stave off the signs of aging needs to be pointed out.

Sources:
Wang, T., Martin, S., Papadopulos, A., Harper, C., Mavlyutov, T., Niranjan, D., Glass, N., Cooper-White, J., Sibarita, J., Choquet, D., Davletov, B., & Meunier, F. (2015). Control of Autophagosome Axonal Retrograde Flux by Presynaptic Activity Unveiled Using Botulinum Neurotoxin Type A Journal of Neuroscience, 35 (15), 6179-6194 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3757-14.2015

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