Carbon monoxide may limit vascular damage

Carbon monoxide in small doses can prevent injury to blood vessels caused by surgery, a study of rats suggests.

Researchers gave carbon monoxide to rats before performing angioplasty, in which a balloon-tipped catheter is used to widen a clogged area in an artery. The procedure works well for people with partially blocked arteries, but many patients must undergo repeat angioplasty because the subtle injury caused by the balloon can lead to new blockages later.

Carbon monoxide is poisonous, but it’s naturally released in low doses by cells of blood vessels in response to surgical procedures.

In the new study, rats that inhaled carbon monoxide-laced air for 1 hour before angioplasty had much less subsequent artery blockage than did rats not receiving the gas, says study coauthor Augustine Choi, a pulmonologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Rats that underwent a vessel transplant also fared significantly better if given carbon monoxide before and after the surgery, the researchers report in the February Nature Medicine.

The researchers are currently testing the carbon monoxide therapy on pigs, whose responses to these procedures closely approximate those of people.


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