Thimerosal, a preservative developed by Eli Lily, was once widely used in vaccines. That was until it was identified as the source of the largest exposure to mercury in the United States in children under 18 months of age and mandated to be removed from vaccines. However, amazingly, despite its well-documented potential toxic effects, this harmful preservative remains present in the flu vaccine, which is given to pregnant women, the elderly and children.
A team of researchers examined the toxicity of thimerosal within the body including neurons. They explored:
- Neurotoxic mechanisms
- How the body detoxifies mercury
- The use of N-Acetylcysteine (or NAC) in aiding the detoxification pathway within the body
Ordinarily, the brain and liver can manufacture enough glutathione (an essential antioxidant and naturally occurring tripeptide made of cysteine, glutamate, and glycine) to protect your body from exposure to various heavy metals, including mercury. When this critical compound is depleted in your body, however, the mercury that is left can bind with cellular proteins, can lead to toxic damage.
Studies have indicated low incredibly tiny concentrations of thimerosal induced:
- DNA strand breaks
- Caspase-3 activation
- Membrane damage
- Cell death
Researchers also found that higher concentrations of thimerosal lead to a greater number of cells that were killed, and the nerve cell response occurred with only a three-hour exposure.
Neurotoxicology January 2005;26(1):1-8