While botox is seen as the easy and safe go-to to get rid of every pesky wrinkle (and Dhs5 trillion in sales last year clearly says that we're all quite partial to it), it may not be as safe as we once thought.
A new study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that when injected, botox actually has the ability to move around into different nerve cells.
To understand how this happens, we have to look at the science behind it. Botox is the trade name for Botulinum Toxin Type A: a neurotoxin that has the ability to cause botulism, a potentially fatal illness that paralyses muscle. In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning saying that the toxin "may spread from the area of injection to produce symptoms of botulism", resulting in muscle weakness and difficulty breathing.
In this study, the scientists’ analysed two strains of botulinum toxin on mouse neurons and found that it can actually move around into areas where it wasn't intended to go.
"Once these toxins enter a neuron, a fraction of the toxin acts within that neuron, but another fraction is able to move – from the first neuron – into connected neurons," Edwin Chapman, an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor of neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told The Guardian. "In other words, these toxins do in fact move about among connected networks of neurons."
Researchers also revealed that they're not clear on how far the toxin travels.
So what does this mean for us? Well, doctors are still quite comfortable with the safety of botox. Kathleen Souzzi, an instructor at the department of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, said that even if the toxin does move, it's unlikely that it will result in complications or breathing difficulties.
"Complications are rare and when they occur typically involve the local spread of the toxin to cause paralysis of unintended targets, for example, eyelid drooping," she said. "They didn’t study humans so their findings can’t necessarily be extrapolated beyond the laboratory. Also, even if there is some migration, we need to know how far and if it is important or dangerous."
For now, it seems we can still safely opt for botox if we want to. As Chapman concedes, no matter how it is used, botox will eventually be destroyed by the body anyway.