University receives patent for cyanide antidote

The University of Minnesota was granted a patent for a fast-acting cyanide antidote last month, a development over a decade in the making.

While other cyanide antidotes already exist, the antidote developed by University researchers is more effective than others on the market, in part because it’s administered by injection. Researchers hope the antidote will save the lives of people exposed to hydrogen cyanide, including firefighters, industrial workers and terrorist attack victims.

Available antidotes require an IV, which must be administered by somebody with medical knowledge, said University cyanide antidote researcher Steven Patterson. Plus, treatment delivered via IV can take up to ten minutes to hit a patient’s bloodstream, and cyanide can kill in minutes, he said.

The University’s antidote uses an auto-injector — like an EpiPen — that the average person can administer, Patterson said.

Retired University professor Herbert Nagasawa first thought up the idea for a fast-acting cyanide antidote during the first Gulf War, Patterson said, but Nagasawa couldn’t get funding for the project.

After 9/11, the U.S. government became more concerned about the possibility of a chemical attack and established grant programs for those studying chemical antidotes. The University received one of these grants to study cyanide antidotes in 2006, Patterson said.  

The University’s development has been effective in several laboratory studies, he said. Additionally, researchers have rescued lab test animals from hyper-lethal doses of hydrogen cyanide, compared to available antidotes that failed to save test subjects.

Others that survived after receiving the available antidotes showed signs of a neurological deficit similar to Parkinson’s disease, a common and lasting effect of cyanide poisoning. The subjects given the University’s antidote showed none of these signs.

Researchers hope the new antidote will be more…

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