Nutrition specialist tests antioxidants for injury treatment

Hemorrhagic shock is responsible for 50 percent of early deaths in the U.S. military. Professor Stanley Omaye is looking to lower that number. The nutrition specialist is working with antioxidants to develop emerging treatments for severely injured soldiers suffering from hemorrhagic shock and subsequent ischemia-reperfusion (IR) injury.

IR injury is an acute inflammatory response that occurs after blood flow has been restricted and later restored. "If you tie a tourniquet and you cut off the flow to a body part, and then you forget about it and come back and let it loose, you get a burst of blood to the tissue with a lot of oxygen, which can cause damage to tissue," Omaye said. "A lot of this research is to prevent such damage. That's just one example." IR injury is one of the most common types of cell injuries that occur in response to a variety of clinical and military field conditions such as coronary arterial disease, cardiopulmonary bypass, occlusive arterial disease, stroke, re- plantation of amputated parts and tourniquet application.

This overflow of oxygen, known as oxidative stress, results in a burst of reactive oxygen and nitrogen, causing organ and tissue damage. One science-based approach to this problem is the early intervention of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH), a naturally occurring body chemical. "Through early intervention with GSH or similar chemicals, we would have the potential of preventing injury, morbidity and mortality," Omaye said. However, Omaye is taking research one step further -- to determine the feasibility of using a precursor chemical to GSH.

"It's called gamma-glutamylcysteine (GGC), and scientists in Australia are using it as health-food supplement," Omaye said. "This precursor is a naturally occurring antioxidant, and it might be better at getting into the bloodstream and treating IR injury."

By preloading tissues with this GSH precursor chemical, Omaye and fellow researchers should be able to stimulate tissue to synthesize GSH, preventing IR injury. Once initial research is completed, Omaye said his work may be applied on a wider scale. "In addition to potential usefulness for the military, there is potential for civilian trauma situations," Omaye said.