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Chemical and Biological Considerations in the Treatment of Metal Intoxications by Chelating Agents

[ Vol. 4 , Issue. 1 ]


O. Andersen   Pages 11 - 21 ( 11 )


Effective chelation treatment of metal intoxications requires that the pharmacokinetics of the administered chelator in fact leads to chelation of the toxic metal, preferably forming a less toxic species which is effectively excreted. This depends on physical and chemical characteristics of metals and chelators as e.g. ionic diameter, ring size and deformability, hardness / softness of electron donors and acceptors, administration route, bioavailability, metabolism, organ and intra / extra cellular compartmentalization, and excretion. In vivo chelation is unlikely to reach equilibrium determined by the standard stability constant, as rate effects and ligand exchange reactions as well as the pharmacokinetics of the chelator considerably influence complex formation. Hydrophilic chelators enhance renal metal excretion, but mainly their extracellular distribution limit their effect to mainly extracellular metal pools. Lipophilic chelators can decrease intracellular stores, but may redistribute toxic metals to e.g. the brain. In chronic metal induced disease, necessitating life-long chelation, toxicity and side effects of the chelator may limit the treatment. The metal selectivity of chelators is important, due to the risk of essential metals depletion. Dimercaptosuccinic acid and dimercaptopropionic sulfonate are presently gaining increased acceptance among clinicians, undoubtedly improving the management of human metal intoxications including lead, arsenic and mercury compounds. Still, development of new safer chelators suited for long-term oral administration for chelation of metal deposits, mainly iron, is an important challenge to the future research.


Chemical chelation, Metal intoxication, BAL, DMSA, DMPS


Department of LifeSciences and Chemistry, Roskilde University Postboks 260, 4000 Roskilde,Denmark

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