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From botulism to beauty: the evolution of botulinum toxins and botox

How botox works in the cosmetic industry

Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) rank amongst the most potent and lethal neurotoxins known to science. Yet, it's a fascinating journey to discover how these deadly substances have found

their way into one of the most renowned cosmetic procedures in the world: Botox.

BoNTs originate from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which produces some of the most potent neurotoxins in existence. They are central to the development of botulism, a condition that relentlessly targets the body's nervous system, resulting in challenges in breathing and muscle paralysis. Despite their perilous origins, these toxins have undergone a fascinating metamorphosis into a popular cosmetic procedure.

They have been studied substantially due to their ability to block nerve functions leading to

muscle paralysis and their unique pharmacological properties in therapeutic and cosmetic

uses. They affect the neurotransmission process by blocking the release of acetylcholine

that allows muscle contraction in the body. The toxins bind pre-synaptically to recognition

sites on cholinergic nerve terminals resulting in the inhibition of neurotransmitter release.

The toxin consists of a heavy chain and a light chain connected by a disulphide bond. This

disulphide bond is vital in the entry of the metalloprotease chain in the cytosol. BoNTs have a unique binding characteristic as a dual receptor binder, which allows them to achieve a high affinity for neurons. These proteins possess the remarkable ability to specifically target and interfere with the neurotransmission process. At their core, BoNTs are proteases, enzymes specialised in cleaving specific proteins involved in nerve signal transmission.

When administered as Botox, BoNTs are skillfully harnessed to their advantage due to these

properties. By injecting small, controlled amounts into specific facial muscles, they temporarily disrupt the nerve signals that stimulate muscle contraction. This action leads to

muscle relaxation, smoothing out wrinkles and lines on the skin's surface. Importantly, the

effects are localised, preserving the natural expressiveness of the face.

In 1989, BoNTs made their debut in the medical community by being recognised as a safe

and effective treatment by the FDA for blepharospasm, which affects eye muscle control.

However, in 2002 the FDA extended its endorsement, propelling Botox into the realm of

beauty. This pivotal decision forever reshaped the landscape of cosmetic procedures,

solidifying Botox's status as an iconic treatment for rejuvenation and enhancement.

In conclusion, the evolution of botulinum toxins and the rise of Botox is a captivating journey

that traverses the realms of science, medicine, and evolving beauty ideals.

By Anam Ahmed

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