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Acetaminophen aids kidneys after muscle injury

By Leigh MacMillan
July 2010

An international research team led by investigators at Vanderbilt University Medical Center reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) prevented oxidative damage and kidney failure after muscle injury in a rat model. The findings support further investigation of the drug’s effects in patients with severe muscle injuries, such as those suffered by victims of earthquakes, car accidents and explosions.

The researchers demonstrated in extensive in vitro studies that acetaminophen blocks the redox cycling of myoglobin and hemoglobin and prevents the oxidation of lipids (fatty molecules that are targets of oxidative damage).

They also showed in a rat model of rhabdomyolysis-induced renal failure that acetaminophen decreased lipid oxidation and reduced the formation
of myoglobin crosslinked to other proteins, extremely toxic entities.

Acetaminophen administered before or after the skeletal muscle injury in the rat model prevented oxidative injury to the kidneys, improved renal function and reduced renal damage. And importantly, the effective acetaminophen concentrations in the rat matched normal therapeutic concentrations in humans.

Acetaminophen also may prevent tissue damage in other conditions in which oxygen-carrying heme proteins (myoglobin and hemoglobin) are released from cells, including heart attacks, malaria and sickle cell disease.

It is possible that soldiers at risk of suffering muscle injuries from gunfire or explosive devices may benefit from acetaminophen as well. But first, controlled studies in humans are needed to confirm that acetaminophen prevents tissue damage and that it’s safe.

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