Supplement Prevents Liver Damage

A well-known Eastern supplement found in plants like barley and wheat could be the key to preventing the most common type of liver transplant.

The molecule S-methylmethionine (SMM), which has been marketed as an herbal supplement called vitamin U for treatment of the digestive system, was shown in a new study to protect against liver damage caused by acetaminophen overdose.

Acetaminophen overdose is the most common cause of liver transplantation in the United States, and the only known antidote is a compound called NAC. NAC must be administered as soon as possible after an overdose and can cause nausea and vomiting.

Researchers found of 16 strains of mice who were given SMM, one strain was resistant to liver damage caused by acetaminophen. They then discovered that what protected the mice was a specific pathway that converted SMM into a molecule called glutathione. At normal levels, acetaminophen is easily deactivated when it binds to glutathione, but the body’s supply of the molecule quickly drops when a person overdoses.

“By administering SMM, which is found in every flowering plant and vegetable, we were able to prevent a lot of the drug’s toxic effect,” lead study author Gary Peltz was quoted as saying.

Source: Genome Research, November 18, 2009

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