Botox gives more than a frozen face, it can damage your brain

Botox can damage the brain, may spread from face to nervous system.

14 April, 2008

Doing a facelift by injecting the popular wrinkle eraser botulinum neurotoxin type A – commonly known as Botox – can be injurious to the brain. Update: FDA demands black box warnings on Botox, Dysport due to risk of toxin spreading to other parts of the body. (2/05/09)

Botulinum toxin, one of the most poisonous substances in the world, was approved for commercial use in 1989.

Botox injections work by temporarily paralysing facial muscles, reducing the contractions that cause new wrinkles and ironing out existing ones. The botulinum toxin cuts off communication between nerve cells by destroying a protein named SNAP-25. This disruption paralyses the muscles controlled by the nerve cells, and these paralysing properties allow doctors to treat some diseases such as strabismus, or ‘crossed’ eyes.

Plastic surgeons also use small doses to paralyse facial muscles, thereby making lines and wrinkles less visible.

While this “non- scalpel” cosmetic procedure was once used only by celebrities and the wealthy, Botox injections are now available in the United Kingdom from cosmetic surgeons and beauticians for as little as £99.

Recent research, conducted by Italian researchers and published in the latest issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that the deadly poison in Botox may actually spread from the face to the central nervous system after it is injected into the skin.

Botox injections are one of the one of the most popular cosmetic treatments in the United Kingdom.

When researchers from the Italian National Research Council’s Institute of Neuroscience injected botulinum toxin into the faces of rats, it was found that the drug moved away from the site of the injection, to be detected just days later in the stem cells in the brain. The poison, which was present in the brain of rats even six months later, was also able to travel from one region of the brain to another.

Matteo Caleo, who led the study wrote in The Journal of Neuroscience: “We suspect that this spread is a common occurrence after toxin delivery,” adding that “even minute quantities of botulinum toxin are enough to interfere with nerve signalling elsewhere in the body.”

The website named celebrities such as Sir Cliff Richard, X Factor judges Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne, and Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher as having admitted to taking Botox injections.

The latest findings on the hazards of Botox injections come two months after the drug was blamed for 16 deaths in the United States. These deaths are believed to have occurred when Botox, used to treat muscle spasms, travelled from the site of injection to other parts of the body, weakening, in turn, the muscles used for breathing or swallowing.

The results of the new research is likely to be used a as powerful weapon by campaigners who clamour for stricter regulations on Botox, according to

However, many practitioners who administer Botox injections have questioned the significance of the latest findings.

The website quoted Dr Douglas McGeorge, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, as saying: “There is no chance that this could happen to a human. Botox is a poison, and a single unit of botulism is a 50% lethal dose for a white mouse, but it is very different for human beings. The doses (used here) are relatively much smaller and it has much more local effects.”

“If used appropriately,” Dr Douglas McGeorge added, “Botox is a wonderful drug, and you are much more likely to encounter problems from injecting it into the wrong area than from it migrating anywhere.”

Being a comparatively new treatment, knowledge of the long-term side-effects of Botox injections are limited, but droopy eyelids and expressionless ‘frozen faces’ are common.






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