The Accidental Discovery of Botox: How It All Began

In the 1970s, scientists began using botulinum toxin to treat strabismus (that is, the misalignment of the eyes). The glabella is the skin between the eyebrows and above the nose. Dr. Alan Scott was the first to discover, in the early 1970s, that laboratory monkeys responded well to drug injections into the eye muscles.

He found that botulinum toxin paralysis was limited to the target muscle, could last quite a long time, and had no side effects. The drug Botox is made from a toxin that produces the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. It works by weakening or paralyzing specific muscles or by blocking nerves. It's the same toxin that could cause food poisoning if ingested, and in fact, that's how the Botox story begins. In the 1970s, American ophthalmologist Dr.

Alan Scott began researching the toxin as a possible treatment for eye deficiencies. In 1978, he injected the paralytic into a patient for the first time, in an attempt to treat eye muscles after surgery for retinal detachment. This experiment was successful and paved the way for other patients to receive it, including those who suffered from strabismus or eye misalignment. Scott's groundbreaking research led him to be known as the “Father of Botox”.Throughout the 1990s, Botox became known as a powerful tool for helping people maintain a more youthful appearance.

Physicians gained increasing experience using it for cosmetic purposes, and in 2002, the drug received FDA approval for cosmetic applications, including treating lines between the eyebrows, crow's feet, and forehead lines. By the 1950s and 1960s, scientists had been able to purify botulinum toxin A and began research on the use of the purified toxin for therapeutic purposes. It was used as early as the 1960s to treat strabismus or squints. In the late 1980s, it was approved by the FDA and was regularly used to treat cross-eyed and eyelid spasms, and its cosmetic benefits were discovered by accident by an eye doctor. Jean Carruthers observed that when patients were treated for eyelid spasms with the toxin, there was an additional side effect: the reduction of forehead lines. He published an article on the subject in 1992 and, once the word got out, Botox (as it was now called) became the most popular option in town. Anyone who has seen sensationalist examples of bad Botox knows that it takes a professional to administer it correctly, and poor aesthetic appearance is just one of the dangers involved in taking advantage of a substance that can be so toxic in other ways. In addition to strabismus, Botox has been a blessing for those suffering from benign essential blepharospasm, a neurological condition in which the eyes close involuntarily to prevent muscles from spasming.

Botox has also been approved by the FDA to treat several medical problems such as hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), chronic migraines, and overactive bladder. It is a purified protein derived from Clostridium botulinum bacteria whose origins and discovery we will see in a minute. Any injection can hurt but needles used for Botox injections are very small so pain is usually minimal. As is often the case with high-grossing drugs, Botox's story has a chapter dedicated to an accidental discovery. Botox uses a very small dose of neurotoxin to block acetylcholine release which disrupts neurons signaling process that activates dynamic expressions. The result was successful and Scott was hailed as “Father of Botox”.

The scientific name of Botox is OnabotulinumToxin which is actually one of seven different strains of botulinum toxin produced from Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Allergan states that Botox represents more than 90 percent of medical uses of neurotoxins and 75 percent of market for cosmetic uses. If you're interested in trying Botox or Botox Cosmetic it's important to know about any risks or side effects. Dr. Brin shared with us that “it all starts with purified raw material botulinum neurotoxin type A where less than one gram of purified toxin is enough to supply global supply of Botox and Botox Cosmetic for an entire year”. Van Ermengem originally discovered bacteria but only later it was isolated and purified by American scientists during World War II. It was couple of doctors Jean Carruthers an eye doctor from Vancouver and her husband Alastair dermatologist who discovered anti-aging properties of Botox.

Aidan Tobacco
Aidan Tobacco

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