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 Portland, Oregon 97201 (503) 494-8474
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-sketal 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
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 1965.
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'
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 following entities:
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Raynaud's Phenomenon
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Degenerative Arthritis
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Chronic Obstructive
- Reflex Sympathetic
- Diabetic Ulcerations
- Scar Tissue
- Adjunct in Plastic