Status of DIMETHYL SULFOXIDE (DMSO)
Stanley W. Jacob, M.D
Gerlinger Professor Department
of Surgery Oregon Health Sciences University
3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road Mail Code
L225 Portland, Oregon 97201 (503)
494-8474 FAX (503) 494-5352
DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), as a therapeutic principle,
was first introduced to the scientific community in
1963 by a research team headed by Stanley W. Jacob,
MD, at the University of Oregon Medical School.
While DMSO has been called "the most controversial
therapeutic advance of modern times," the controversy
seems to be bureaucratic and economic rather than scientific.
Over the past forty years, more than 10,000 articles
on the biologic implications of DMSO have appeared in
the scientific literature and 30,000 articles on the
chemistry of DMSO have also been published. The results
of these studies strongly support the view that DMSO
is a truly significant new therapeutic principle.
When organ systems are injured or deteriorate, the damaged
tissue produces agents we call "free radicals."
These further harm cells and prevent or slow healing.
DMSO is a potent scavenger of these radicals, maintaining
the normal integrity of cells and tissues. Another important
component of DMSO activity is its synergism with other
therapeutic agents. For example, Charles Dake, D.V.M.
(Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences, 1967, Vol. 141)
found that cats with overwhelming viral infection treated
with either DMSO alone or conventional therapy for viral
infections all died. When DMSO was combined with standard
antiviral treatment, the figures were reversed with
the majority of the cats surviving.
At this time, DMSO is a respected, approved pharmaceutical
agent in more than 125 countries. In 1970, the FDA approved
DMSO for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders
in dogs and horses. Many veterinarians consider DMSO
to be the most valuable therapeutic substance in their
armamentarium. Additionally in 1978, it was approved
by the FDA in humans for the therapy of Interstitial
Cystitis (a painful disabling urinary bladder inflammation).
In many ways, DMSO represents the "aspirin"
of our era. If aspirin had been introduced in 1963 with
its multiple properties, it might very well have been
similarly restricted in the scope of its application.
DMSO became prescriptive for humans in the USSR in 1971.
Since that time, it has been widely used in the USSR
alone and in combinations. Currently DMSO is employed
in the therapy of various musculo-skeletal problems
in Russia. Dr. Balabanova of the Moscow Institute of
Rheumatology estimates that about 50 percent of the
Russian arthritic population receives DMSO as a part
of their therapy. There are more than one hundred articles
in the world's literature relating to DMSO and arthritis.
These include both clinical results and mechanism of
action. Among the well-documented pharmacologic properties
of DMSO include analgesia, anti-inflammation, softening
of scar tissue, hydroxyl radical scavenging, vasodilation,
and stimulation of healing.
An excellent controlled study was completed by the Japanese
Rheumatism Association showing benefit in rheumatoid
arthritis (Matsomoto - Annals of NY Academy of Sciences
1967, Vol. 141, Aritcle 1, 560-569). Twenty university
centers were involved.
One of the most important questions about any medicinal
therapy is safety. Except for nuisance side effects
such as odor, the only well-documented, potentially
serious side effect is the occasional patient who is
allergic. A careful review of the published literature
on DMSO show that there is not a single death which
can definitely be attributed to this agent.
Conservatively, hundreds of millions of patients have
been safely treated with DMSO worldwide. DMSO is a substance
of extraordinary low toxicity.
In 1965, when the FDA halted evaluation of DMSO in the
United States, they had data in their files on more
than 100,000 patients submitted by approximately 1,500
physicians in our country showing safety and effectiveness.
The pharmaceutical companies submitting the aforementioned
data were Merck, Syntex, and Squibb. This occurred in
When we discuss DMSO, we are talking about an agent
which not only relieves pain, but has multiple well-documented
effects in a variety of illnesses. DMSO possesses lifesaving
potential in stroke and head injuries (JC de la Torre
- Annals of NY Academy of Sciences 1975, vol 243). In
multiple lower animal studies, DMSO prevents indefinite
paralysis following severe spinalcord contusions. Since
1965, about 300,000 people in this country have sustain
spinal cord injuries. Many remain paralyzed. The early
effective use of DMSO might have prevented theses tragedies.
More recently, Karaca (European Journal of Clinical
Pharmacology 1991, vol 40:113-114) & Kulai (Neurchirurgia
1990, Vol 33: 177-180) report on the value of intravenouse
DMSo in the management of brain swelling and intracranial
pressure in patients with the severe closed head injury.
Currently, we are studying DMSO and fructose diphosphate
in rodents for the therapy of Alzheimers' Disease.
Today, DMSO is an effective treatment for many illnesses
for which we have no other therapy. It is safer, less
expensive, and at least as effective for a variety of
problems for which we are presently using other, less
effective, and more costly treatments. In 1972 the National
Academy of Sciences evaluated the scientific data on
DMSO and concluded it was a least as effective as currently
approved treatments for three musculoskeletal inflammatory
problems in man.
We have employed a mixture of DMSO and DMSO2 for the
therapy of fibromyalgia. Patients are treated with intravenous,
oral, and topical routes. It requires approximately
two months before any benefit occurs. Seventy percent
of our patients with fibromyalgia improve.
Published articles on DMSO have show benefit in the
Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
in Plastic Surgery