Botox: Toxic Love

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Nature’s Poison Turned Therapeutic

Botulin neurotoxin, or as we call it “Botox,” is one of the most famous toxins in the medical world. It is produced by Clostridium botulinum, which is a bacteria that contaminates canned food.
botoxThis toxin is capable of fatal paralysis, but by manipulating these poisons, you can redirect their toxicity toward therapeutic purposes. Botulinum toxin acts by binding presynaptically to high-affinity recognition sites on the cholinergic nerve terminals and decreasing the release of acetylcholine, causing a neuromuscular blocking effect. This mechanism laid the foundation for the development of the toxin as a therapeutic tool.

Many toxins have been proven useful throughout history. For example, Atropine, which comes from the Atropa belladonna plant, or Deadly Nightshade as it’s more commonly called, is used in eye drops because of its ability to dilate the pupils. In its pure form, though, belladonna is highly poisonous. Acetylsalicylic acid, or ASA, as it’s commonly known among scientists, is a toxin found in the bark of European willow trees, and a major component of aspirins and other analgesics.

Toxic Timeline

The German physician and poet Justinus Kerner (1786-1862) first developed the idea of a possible therapeutic use of botulinum toxin, which he called “sausage poison.” In 1973, Dr. Alan B. Scott, of Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, used BoNT-A in monkey experiments; in 1980, he used BoNT-A for the first time in humans to treat strabismus.

In 2001, the United Kingdom approved BOTOX, synthesized by Allergan, for axillary hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Canada approved BOTOX for axillary hyperhidrosis, focal muscle spasticity, and cosmic treatment of wrinkles at the brow line. On September 11, 2013, the US FDA approved onabotulinumtoxinA (BOTOX) for the temporary improvement in the appearance of moderate to severe lateral canthal lines, known as crow’s feet. This is the only FDA-approved drug treatment option for lateral canthal lines.

To date, the popularity of BOTOX is unmatched in cosmetic surgery. The use and scope of botulinum toxin increases each year, with patients showing a high degree of satisfaction with the procedure. Current research focuses on using BOTOX as an adjunct to a myriad of surgical as well as ablative procedures. Botulinum toxin A now has been used in significant numbers for 20 years. Its injection is proven to be an extremely safe strategy for selectively including muscle paralysis.

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