Thorazine Protects Against Apoptosis in Brain Cells

Thorazine (chlorpromazine) is one of the standard antipsychotic medications used in the treatment of schizophrenia, mania and severe behavioral issues. The medication has also been used to relieve stress before surgery, alleviate hiccups, nausea and vomiting, and treat tetanus infections. Like all antipsychotic drugs, Thorazine’s primary effect is to alter the levels of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.

Recent experimentation has demonstrated that a secondary effect of Thorazine is to protect brain cells from potentially harmful stimuli. Substances like ethanol or cyanide speed up the process of natural cell death in the brain, eventually causing irreversible damage or death. Apoptosis is the technical term for the natural process of cell death, and Thorazine is believed to slow this process. A study involving rats and ethanol added strong evidence to the argument that this conventional antipsychotic medication exhibits protective qualities inside the brain. What this means for humans remains to be seen.

Researchers divided the rats for the ethanol experiment into two groups. One group received a single pretreatment of Thorazine several hours before a moderately large injection of ethanol solution. The other group received no pretreatment. Previous studies have shown that ethanol substantially increases the rate of apoptosis in the rat brain. Rats were sacrificed at different intervals following the administration of ethanol. A number of tests were conducted on brain tissue and blood plasma to assess the level of apoptosis in various brain regions.

The results were fairly conclusive. Rats in the Thorazine group showed a much lower rate of cell death when compared with those in the untreated group. In a similar experiment, rats were exposed to these chemicals in reverse order: ethanol first, then Thorazine. Not surprisingly, the results were far different. Thorazine’s neuroprotective qualities only manifest when treatment precedes exposure to a toxic agent.

According to some studies, schizophrenia becomes progressively worse as a result of rapid cell death in critical areas of the brain. If that’s the case, it only reinforces the wisdom of prescribing Thorazine as a first-line treatment for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Furthermore, the neuroprotective aspect of this antipsychotic medication suggests other uses. In the future, Thorazine may also be helpful in the battles against Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain disorders and serious infectious diseases.

References:

  1. Chlorpromazine – PubMed Health. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000553/
  2. Wu, J., Song, R., Song, W., Li, Y., Zhang, Q., Chen, Y., Fu, Y. et al. (2011). Chlorpromazine protects against apoptosis induced by exogenous stimuli in the developing rat brain. PLoS ONE6 (7). Retrieved April 19, 2010, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136481/?tool=pmcentrez

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