It is an ingredient more likely to raise suspicions among the parents of sweet-toothed children.  But the colouring in a blue M&M could harbour secret benefits.


Scientists have found that the food dye that gives the sweet its distinctive tint could help patients with spine injuries.

The compound, Brilliant Blue G, can block a chemical which makes injuries worse by causing inflammation and destroying cells.

This ‘secondary spinal cord damage’ can often cause more problems than the original wound. Researchers found that treatment with Brilliant Blue G reduced the size of the lesion and also improved recovery.

But there was a dramatic side-effect on laboratory rats used in the experiment, whose skin temporarily turned bright blue.

The dye also needed to be injected into a vein very quickly after a trauma to be effective – within 15 minutes.

However, it was able to significantly reduce secondary injury, with injured rats being able to walk again, although with a limp. Rats that had not received the solution never regained the ability to walk.

Researcher Dr Steven Goldman said: ‘Our hope is that this work will lead to a practical, safe agent that can be given to patients to decrease the secondary damage that we have to otherwise expect.’

The chemical which can worsen spinal injuries is ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is normally beneficial for the body’s cells. The same researchers discovered five years ago that it surges into the area surrounding a spinal cord injury.

This glut of ATP kills off healthy and uninjured cells, explaining how secondary spinal injury occurs.

The findings at the University of Rochester in New York state were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Further research will be needed to test the safety of BBG and related agents before human clinical trials can begin.

Via Daily Mail