USU scientists exploring controlled release of carbon monoxide

From left, USU scientists Abby Benninghoff, Tatiana Soboleva, Marina Popova and Lisa Berreau are developing molecules to deliver controlled amounts of carbon monoxide to targets within the human body. The team recently published two journal articles.

Scientists at Utah State University are exploring the controlled release of carbon monoxide for therapeutic applications and the team is earning international attention for their findings.

USU chemist Dr. Lisa Berreau said carbon monoxide, or CO, is produced in our bodies; it is produced at the site of wounds.

“In the last 20 years, people have figured out that carbon monoxide has beneficial health effects at these wound sites, such as vaso dilation — the opening of the blood vessels; that is part of the healing process,” Dr. Berreau explained. “So, what we’re doing and why we’re getting international acclaim, is we make molecules that someday may be useful in treatment because they allow us to introduce a small amount of CO at a specific site, and we have total control over that release.”

A microscopic image of human lung cancer cells, in which the USU-developed molecule carrying carbon monoxide is shown to target mitochondria, as revealed by the bright yellow-green color.

So CO has potential in creating advanced blood flow. It also could be used with an area of tissue that you want to eradicate, such as a tumor.

“Another approach might be to deliver CO at such a dose that it will allow the tumor cells to die, because we would introduce enough CO to cause them to die.”

She said the USU team is developing its’ carbon monoxide-releasing molecules from flavonoids, which give the bright colors to certain fruits.

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