Botox affects brain cells. Scientists have made a new discovery

A breakthrough has been made in understanding how Botox, commonly used in medicine and cosmetics, penetrates brain cells – reported in “The EMBO Journal”. What exactly have scientists determined and what impact will it have on the future use of Botox? Professor Frederic Meunier from the University of Queensland explained this.

University of Queensland researchers have identified the exact molecular pathway by which botulinum neurotoxin type A, commonly known as Botox, enters neurons. It binds to receptors on the surface of brain cells and thanks to them it receives synaptic vesicles, which contain neurotransmitters necessary for communication between neurons.

Botox has been used in medicine for many years. It was originally developed to treat strabismus, but very quickly its muscle paralyzing properties were used to treat migraines, excessive muscle tension or excessive sweating. Currently, it is widely used in cosmetics, it is injected to smooth wrinkles.

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Botox-based treatments inject botulinum toxins produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum into the target area. Its alternative name is botulism. It is the same substance responsible for severe food poisoning and is the strongest known poison affecting the nervous system. In severe cases, it causes paralysis of the muscles of the respiratory system and death.

Scientists have made an amazing discovery about Botox. Unsplash / Vlad Egorov

For medical and cosmetic procedures, the toxin is used in very small doses. If properly managed, it does not pose a threat to health, but still retains its neurotoxic properties, thanks to which, for example, it paralyzes facial muscles to optically soften wrinkles or relax tense muscles.

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However, the exact mechanism by which the neurotoxin affects neurons is still not fully understood. Now a team headed by Prof. Using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, Frédéric Meunier and Dr Merja Jones from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland have shown that a receptor called synaptotagmin 1 combines with two previously identified receptors for clostridial neurotoxin to form a small membrane complex. of neurons.

“The poison takes control of the entire complex and thus enters the synaptic vesicles that store the neurotransmitters necessary for communication between neurons. Then Botox interrupts communication between nerves and muscle cells, causing paralysis” – explained. Meunier.

This exciting discovery, according to the authors of the study, offers an opportunity to identify new treatments for botulinum toxin, which is life-threatening and c. Occurs relatively frequently after eating poorly preserved food contaminated with botulinum.

“Now that we know how this complex allows the neurotoxin to enter nerve cells, we can block the interaction between any two of the three receptors described above, preventing the deadly toxin from entering neurons,” Meunier points out.

According to him, this study answers the main question about Botox, which until now has been a big problem for doctors and cosmetologists.

“Clostridium neurotoxins are one of the most potent protein poisons known to man. How these toxins are introduced into neurons, they retain their therapeutic effects and do not pose a health risk,” says Dr. Jones. .


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