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Medicine Science

Dye Used In Blue M&Ms Can Lessen Spinal Injury 324

Posted by kdawson
from the lands-where-the-jumblies-live dept.
SydShamino writes "Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that the dye used in blue M&Ms and other foods can, when given intravenously to a lab rat shortly after a spinal injury, minimize secondary damage caused by the body when it kills off nearby healthy cells. The dye is called BBG or Brilliant Blue G. Given that 85% of spinal injury patients are currently untreated (and some doctors don't trust the treatment given to the other 15%), a relatively safe treatment like this could help preserve some function for thousands of patients. The best part is that in lab rats the subjects given the treatment turn blue." The researchers are "pulling together an application to be lodged with the FDA to stage the first clinical trials of BBG on human patients."
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Dye Used In Blue M&Ms Can Lessen Spinal Injury

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:35PM (#28856337) Journal
    "... so every year we have a bring-your-child-to-work day where we inject some M&M dye into the lab rats and let the kids play with them. And Gunderson's kid has this nasty tendency to just baseball them into the wall and, well, we noticed the blue colored mice were recovering much better from the wall impact injuries ..."

    Seriously though is there like a lab out there giving rats spinal injuries and jacking them full of chemicals? Cause if there is, I've got my resume handy!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)
      That's probably better than actual conditions for lab rats.

      How do you think they determine what dose kills you? They inject 200 rats with an overdose of, say, acetaminophen, and wait for horrifyingly painful liver failure. I guess it's better than testing it on humans though.
      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Yeah and if less than 100 rate die then it passes the LD50 Lethal Dosage 50% test [wikipedia.org]. And then it can go on to be further tested for usage by the general public. This is the first thing PETA and animal rights activists point to when talking about testing cosmetics on animals, etc., "how much of this can we inject into a rabbit before 50% die, then run that through an FDA equasion to properly dilute it, package it and sell it for topical use only". I'm not a PETA fanatic, I just had to write a report about it i

      • Re:Sound Methods? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @03:13PM (#28857059) Journal
        The funny thing is, if you want to poison a rat for scientific reasons, or (as in this case) break a rat's spine for scientific reasons, there are all sorts of rules to be followed, standards to be upheld, forms to be filed, etc.

        If you just have rats in your house/warehouse/store/(or heck, even your lab, as long as they aren't lab rats) you can put out backbreaking traps, glue traps that cause slow death by dehydration, warfarin baits, whatever you want and nobody will say a thing. No standards, just the maintanence guy hittin' em with a shovel if they are twitching too much for the garbage.

        Same thing in other areas: You don't need to deal with an IRB to raise feedlot pigs. And, for human testing, you (ostensibly at any rate) need informed consent, and various safeguards, IRB oversight, etc. If you need to spray your nerve toxin/probable human carcinogen on your crops, you just hire some undocumented mexican for $3.50 an hour, and throw him away if he breaks...

        I'm not arguing that science needs less scrutiny(unethical conduct is always bad, and "trust us, its for the greater good" doesn't have an especially noble history; but I do think that science draws flack well out of proportion to its relative ethical risk, for reasons I don't fully understand. Numerous fields of human endeavor kill, maim, or cripple far more animals and humans, to far less benefit, than science, and somehow get away with less scrutiny and opposition. Why is science the target?
        • by PitaBred (632671)
          Science is just one target. I mean, didn't you know that chickens are just feathery jews? [aim.org]
        • Re:Sound Methods? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @03:58PM (#28857817)

          Most of those procedures are less about caring for the rats and more about proper bookkeeping, budgeting, specimen tracking, etc. It's procedural controls to keep it science instead of just injecting rats with food coloring.

          As to why science is the target: probably because it's so procedural, and done for reasons many people can't understand properly or deem to be wasteful. A dozen rabbits getting maimed in a wheat thresher is just an unfortunate side effect of your vegan diet; a dozen rabbits getting experimented on for a reason you don't understand is torture and unethical, even if it may alleviate pain and suffering for untold numbers of fellow humans.
          =Smidge=

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by linzeal (197905)
            As far as I know almost all organic labels make no mention of killing "critters" with guns. Almost all farmers out here shoot deer, rabbits and the like so vegans indirectly contribute to untold numbers of animal deaths.
        • by msormune (808119)
          It's because you have to make sure the lab rats are in good health and without diseases etc. for the lab tests, to insure the test results are reliable.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lena_10326 (1100441)

          Just some thoughts as to an explanation why.

          1. Slippery slope argument. Institutionalizing a careless regard for animal life will eventually lead to a general careless regard for human life.
          2. Role model argument. Scientists as a group form a body of people who are commonly recognized as figureheads of authority, leadership, thought shapers, yadda yadda. E.g. role models. As such they are commonly held to higher standard because they are (supposedly) professionals possessing an elevated level of education, pow
      • Re:Sound Methods? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JPLemme (106723) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @03:15PM (#28857097)
        You guess it's better than testing it on humans?

        I agree with you that it's unfortunate that animals are sacrificed for medical research, and I hope and expect that the researchers are aware of their moral obligations to the animals under their care. But fixing spinal cord injuries so that people can walk again is worth the lives of millions of rats.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Brian Gordon (987471)
          Yes, I guess it's better.

          How many rat deaths exactly is a person walking again worth? A million? Could you stomach the hundred thousand gallons of blood flowing from the chopping block, knowing it was saving someone's mobility?

          Are you sure you're comfortable with the ramifications of throwing out a number like one human life = 1 million rat lives? You know, the only reason it's not the other way around (1 million human lives for 1 rat life) is because we're the apex predators with the cages and the ne
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by KDR_11k (778916)

            Humans are really unique in how much they argue about the ethics of killing something for the benefit of their group. Pretty much all animals just kill it and go their merry way. Either they kill it for food or they kill it because it violated their territory or whatever. Sometimes they just kill for fun. None of them complain about the ethics of all that.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by spud603 (832173)
              Is that supposed to be an argument that we shouldn't care about ethics? Most other species also don't cook their food.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            How many rat deaths exactly is a person walking again worth? A million? Could you stomach the hundred thousand gallons of blood flowing from the chopping block, knowing it was saving someone's mobility?

            You exaggerate, a rat has nowhere near a pint of blood in him. Probably not more than ten thousand gallons, tops.

            Are you sure you're comfortable with the ramifications of throwing out a number like one human life = 1 million rat lives?

            Yes, in fact I am.

            You know, the only reason it's not the other way aroun

    • by 32771 (906153)

      HA, that is funny!

      "Nedergaard knew that BBG could thwart the function of P2X7, and its similarity to a blue food dye approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982 gave her the confidence to test it intravenously." still leaves this possibility open I guess.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by petehead (1041740)
      The Wired article http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/07/bluerats/ [wired.com] notes that they dropped a 10 gram weight onto the backs of the mice while the mice were under anesthesia (it doesn't specify if the weight was made by ACME).
    • So let me get this straight? Blue M&Ms can heal your back AND turn you into a smurf?!?! Why the hell do they even put the other colors in there? From now on it's blue all the way.
  • Notice that the eyes have completely changed color as well. I'm thinking I do not want my eyes filled with blue tint.

    • by NFN_NLN (633283) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:42PM (#28856515)

      Notice that the eyes have completely changed color as well. I'm thinking I do not want my eyes filled with blue tint.

      Yeah, given the choice between blue tinted eyes and spinal injury most people will chose spinal injury, I know I would.

      • by himself (66589)

        >
        > Yeah, given the choice between blue tinted eyes and spinal injury most people will chose spinal injury, I know I would.
        >
              I have (naturally) blue eyes, you insensitive clod!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @03:19PM (#28857177)

        The spice must flow!?

    • I dunno, ask this guy [scienceblogs.com] what being blue does to his vision. He used colloidal silver (i.e. silver dissolved in water) as a folk medical treatment for so long that it tinted him blue.

      The guy reports no side effects beyond an urge to hold concerts based on performance art. [wikipedia.org] /humor...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jeffasselin (566598)

      Do rats with blue eyes pray to earthworms?

      I wouldn't mind being a Fremen myself...

      • Given the frequency and severity of combat nerve damage, this stuff might have numerous "Long live the fighters!" applications...
    • by mcgrew (92797)

      A different take on the old song "don't it make my brown eyes blue?"

      Maybe it's the spice melange? [wikipedia.org] Better than a yellow tint. If the whites of your eyes turn yellowish, you're in deep medical trouble.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      Notice that the eyes have completely changed color as well. I'm thinking I do not want my eyes filled with blue tint.

      Umm, actually that would be AWESOME. You would have a cured spinal injury and you'd look like fuckin' Muadib!

      • by Qzukk (229616)

        You would have a cured spinal injury and you'd look like fuckin' Muadib!

        The blue spinal dye must flow!

    • by speedtux (1307149)

      I assure you that you won't notice:

      (1) You'll be pumped full of drugs.

      (2) If you aren't pumped full of drugs, you'll be in pain.

      (3) You'll mostly be thinking about whether you'll ever be able to use your weenie again.

      (4) Your brain compensates anyway.

  • by jbarr (2233) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:37PM (#28856379) Homepage

    ...I've been focusing on the green ones!

  • Blue pill (Score:3, Funny)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:38PM (#28856385) Journal

    Don't take the red pill. Take the blue pill. It's better for your spine.

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:38PM (#28856389)

    The best part is that in lab rats the subjects given the treatment turn blue.

    Do they also start taking part in voiceless percussion stage performances?

  • Blue red (Score:3, Informative)

    by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:38PM (#28856395) Homepage

    Glad to see the blue M&Ms won't be going the way the red ones [wikipedia.org] did in 1976 [wikipedia.org].

  • M&Ms are good for your health... provided that you've just suffered a crippling spine injury.
  • Isn't blue the sexy girl M&M that makes Red and Yellow act stupid all the time?

  • by yincrash (854885) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:40PM (#28856457)
    nat geo [nationalgeographic.com] posted an article. basically, the blue dye helps prevent the initial swelling which compresses spinal cord tissue to the point of tissue death. less tissue death = better recovery.
  • The summary and CNN article don't mention it in detail, but other articles on this study have said that the first application of BBG has to come within 15 minutes of injury for it to have any benefit. If it does get approved at some point, you'd almost want carried by first responders instead of having to wait until you reach the emergency room.

    • Yup (Score:4, Interesting)

      by overshoot (39700) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @03:28PM (#28857329)

      If it does get approved at some point, you'd almost want carried by first responders instead of having to wait until you reach the emergency room.

      And since it's an injected drug, there are all sorts of legal restrictions on who can administer it. The list does not include EMT-Bs (basic emergency medical techs), only full paramedics [1] -- who are not always around when you need one.

      [1] Training for paramedics beyond the standard "field medic" is extensive, including cadaver labs and stuff like that. Even so, they don't administer drugs without explicit direction from medical control (typically nearby ER doc.)

      • Both of you are off base on this one: the "drug" in question is in mass production, and is so common that you can literally buy it by the pound. Every american eats grams and grams of it every year. If it wasn't safe, we'd know by now.

        I'd HOPE that they would treat this more like a saline IV or a compression bandage...A necessary part of triage, in appropriate situations, rather than withholding a treatment that could potentially be the difference between walking with a limp and learning to use a wheelchair

  • I would prefer to be called The Blue Max than ... matt.
  • All the dye does, according to the article, is prevent the body from damaging itself further following a spinal cord injury. It must be injected before that additional damage can occur--I wonder if this will end up in every first-aid kit? That's the only way I see it helping.

  • How about yellow? (Score:2, Informative)

    by DoktorSeven (628331)

    Now can we really make M&Ms (and tons of other foods) better by getting rid of the awful yellow dye garbage (tartrazine)? It's been shown to affect tons of people negatively and some even link it to childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder and hyperactivity.

    Seriously, we can do without yellow foods or find something much safer, can't we? Why do we continue to put use this as a food dye when there are so many issues with it?

    It's a real pain in the ass to analyze ingredient lists of every single thing I

  • Random! (Score:3, Funny)

    by EEBaum (520514) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:45PM (#28856559) Homepage
    I'm sure there are sound methods involved in this, but it sounds kinda like some lab techs have two dartboards, one labeled "thing to do to mouse" and another labeled "thing to inject into mouse to see if it gets better" and are playing a drinking game.

    "Well, the Tide With Color-Safe Bleach injection didn't fix Squeaky's 'beetus. Your turn, Roy!"
    • No, I don't think it's like that at all. Apparently "oxidized ATP" does the same thing as this blue dye, but suffers some drawbacks:
      a) it must be injected into the damaged site directly
      b) it has known dangerous side effects.

      They were looking for a better alternative, and it seems this blue dye is one they found.

      The blue dye they're using doesn't have any known drawbacks and they want to test it to find if there are any problems and if it's really effective.

      --PM

    • by Toonol (1057698)
      Although it's a bit gruesome, it does speak to the benefits of thoroughly testing products on animals. There is something to be said for systematically generating nerve injuries, cancers, diabetes, and so forth in animals and studying the effect of... well, EVERYTHING on their systems. we have nowhere near enough knowledge to predict or model the behavior of chemicals on the chaotic systems of life; we need to still rely on serendipity, so we might as well be rigorous about it.
  • The red dye is made from bugs! [wikipedia.org]

    I couldn't find what this blue dye is made out of in wikipedia. [wikipedia.org] It doesn't mention M&Ms but does mention it's used in chemistry for determining protein concentration in a solution, and there's a link to a BBC article about reducing the effects of spinal injury. I wish someone who is knowledgeable about this would update the wiki.

  • Now available in prescription strength!

  • The actual research article [pnas.org] mentioned in the CNN blurb is in the most recent (as in today) issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • or else David Lee Roth [snopes.com] would definitely refuse this treatment!

    He'd probably trash the OR, too.

  • Why M&M? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Relic of the Future (118669) <dales@digitaFREEBSDlfreaks.org minus bsd> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @03:00PM (#28856827)
    Why are M&Ms getting attached to this story? This dye is used in all kinds of foods, not just M&Ms.

    Maybe M&M/Mars, thanks to all the free and undeserved publicity, would be willing to help fund the necessary study, since no drug company seems interested in doing so (after all, there's no profit in selling a commodity food coloring.)

    • Ah yes, despite evidence the research and trials are actually taking place - it's impossible for them to actually be taking place because no drug company will fund it.
       
      Take your tinfoil hat bullshit elsewhere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kligat (1244968)
      Or maybe instead of blaming the scientists, you could be blaming the stupid U.S. media that wants you to associate science with candy, and candy is delicious, so you'll think science is delicious and click. I originally read the story on BBC [bbc.co.uk], and they never mentioned M&M's once.
  • From the research article [pnas.org]:

    BBG is lower due to the high binding affinity of BBG for proteins, as is characteristic for all Coomasie dyes (14). Never- theless, BBG outside the lesion was minimal, indicating that BBG primarily entered the lesion via the disrupted bloodspinal cord barrier.

    Our mutual friend wikipedia [wikipedia.org] tells us that Coomassie blue started as a fabric dye in Africa.

  • Now I have another reason to keep stuffing my face and getting fatter - jerks! :P

  • Forget the medical advancement. Where can I get me a cool blue/white rat?!
  • by Fuzzums (250400)

    How the *#%)( do you inject a blue M&M. And is that with or without peanut?

  • by overshoot (39700) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @03:21PM (#28857201)
    Apparently this is one of those things like clotbusters after a CVI or MI where time counts -- only more so: waiting an hour or two can make the difference between walking and not walking.

    Which means that restricting it to use in trauma centers is going to end up with a lot of nonurban victims left paralyzed for life. Trouble is, administering it outside of a trauma center is going to cause a lot of problems with licensure etc. Which causes me, as a nonurban first responder, to simultaneously stress out and reach for the popcorn.

  • Here dude, this will get you HIGH!!!

    Next day -

    Holy shit dude. You're blue!

    This is better than that sleeping drunk girl whose friends write all over her.

  • So, this *explains* how Desslok could survive being blown to smithereens every season and then come back next season for more punishment. "I do so hate a man who laughs at his own jokes..... HAAHAHAHHAHAHAHHA"

  • Smurf (Score:3, Funny)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @04:45PM (#28858669) Homepage

    This articles begs to be tagged "smurf".
    I mean, healing people with blue dye...

  • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @10:59PM (#28861813)

    ... will be filing a lawsuit shortly to block this attempted copyright infringement.

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