Low-level doses of the deadly chemical carbon monoxide may actually have medical benefits, pioneering new research suggests. The research is preliminary, and no scientist denies the lethal results of CO poisoning. But studies in animals have found small, controlled doses of the gas can have benefits for organ transplantation and fighting infections.
The findings are most solid on organ transplants—early studies found CO treatment reduced organ rejection and improved function after heart and kidney transplants in animals; research in humans is beginning. Even if the benefits are conclusively proven, it’s unlikely the gas will ever be a treatment. But understanding its benefits could revolutionize how we think about body processes. “Carbon monoxide is a deadly poison,” on researcher tells the Boston Globe. “But it’s also made normally by the body. So the issue is how does that all work.’’