Did you know that people are using a potential food poison to smooth their wrinkles? Botulinum toxin type A (Botox), a food poison found in expired canned foods, is a huge success in the wrinkle-smoothing cosmetic industry. A report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that nearly seven million Botox cosmetic procedures were carried out in 2014, which gave Botox the first place among all cosmetic minimally-invasive procedures.
Botulinum toxin (BTX) comes from the anaerobic bacteria Clostridium botulinum. According to the CDC, BTX causes food-borne botulism, a paralytic illness in which victims lose control over their muscles. This toxin can be fatal if it affects the muscles that control vital activities such as breathing. However, foodborne botulism is not a major threat because the toxins need a mild environment to thrive. The CDC showed that BTX can be destroyed by simply heating it at 85 degrees Celsius for five minutes, which is why it’s always a good idea to check that your food has been thoroughly cooked. As for the positive side of BTX, it has been used to treat a wide range of muscle hyperactivity illnesses such as spasms and seizures. Finally, what really gives BTX popularity and its modern trade name Botox is its ability to smooth facial wrinkles, which was discovered in 1980 and widely accepted in 1992.
Source: Robert Daly
How does BTX interfere with our muscles? Mitchell F. Brin shows that BTX enters neurons by interacting with specific proteins that trigger endocytosis, a process by which cells engulf or “eat” foreign objects, or in this case toxins. Once inside neuron cells, BTX chops off specific proteins called snares , without which neuron cells wouldn’t be able to release acetylcholine (Ach), the vital chemical that makes muscles contract. As a result, when BTX is injected into the glabellar muscles that contract to form frown lines on our foreheads, wrinkles are eliminated. Interestingly, a study has shown that Botox has to be injected repeatedly because cells have their own innate defense called a lysosome that can break down foreign molecules such as Botox.
Botox is merely one example of people turning toxins into treatment methods. Various studies proposed that tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin discovered in pufferfish, is a promising cancer-associated pain reliever. As science and technology move forward, our stereotypical perceptions of poisons as entirely negative are starting to change.
Feature Image Source: Steven Depolo