Researchers nearing possible antidote for carbon monoxide

Using an altered version of a protein found in the brain called neuroglobin, researchers were able to reverse the effects of a lethal dose of carbon monoxide in mice


By O'Ryan Johnson
Boston Herald

PITTSBURGH — The same day a father and son died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in their home in Acushnet, researchers in Pittsburgh published a ground-breaking paper offering up a possible antidote for the invisible killer that is behind hundreds of Bay State emergency room visits each year.

Using an altered version of a protein found in the brain called neuroglobin, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine were able to reverse the effects of a lethal dose of carbon monoxide in mice.

Ivan Azarov, one of the scientists who wrote a paper about the group’s findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine, told the Herald that the goal is to use the research to put a life-saving antidote in the hands of first responders as quickly as possible.

“The idea that was originally proposed is that you could have a vial of this stuff in the field,” Azarov said.

In Boston, an antidote would be a welcome addition to the city’s fleet of ambulances, the head of the EMS union said.

“It sounds like it would do the exact same thing as Narcan,” said medic Jamie Orsino, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen Association/EMS Division. “This absolutely would have a place on a truck and that would be the place to use it. The quicker you can do something, the better off the patient is going to be.”

Azarov said the discovery was the brainchild of Dr. Mark Gladwin, chairman of the Department of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

After tests using red blood cells from humans and mice, Azarov said scientists successfully tested the antidote therapy on live mice given lethal doses of carbon monoxide.

“If approved, this antidote could be rapidly administered to victims in the field,” Gladwin said in a statement, “eliminating costly delays that occur with current treatment options. We still need extensive safety and efficacy testing before an antidote is available on the shelf, but our early results are very promising.”

The paper was published Dec. 7, the same day 41-year-old Joseph Lopes and his 9-year-old son, Collin Lopes, were found dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in their Buttonwood Lane home in Acushnet.

Copyright 2016 the Boston Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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