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Botox: The Science Making It Safer

You have probably heard the “time-freezing effect” of Botox, one of the world’s most popular cosmetics procedures.

Botox injections involve using a toxin to prevent a muscle from moving for a limited time, commonly used to reduce facial wrinkles. However, the toxin contained in Botox is the most toxic compound on Earth.

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On today’s episode of The Science Briefing, Dr Sophie Calabretto is joined by Cosmos magazine journalist Jacinta Bowler to talk about the science behind botox, its associated risks, and the research that is making it safer.

Bowler says that Botox is mainly recognised as a wrinkle smoother, but it also has plenty of medical uses, including neck spasms, sweating and overactive bladder.

“They are a legit medical treatment. It’s the commercial name for a toxin known as Botulinum toxin Type A, which is actually the most toxic compound in the world,” Bowler said.

They say the primary use of Botulinum toxin Type A is to paralyse muscles. 

“It’s very, very toxic, but in a good, toxic way,” they added.

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Bowler says that a few teaspoons of the toxin would be enough to kill millions of people, while the amount used for cosmetic and medical treatments is significantly lower.

“A dose of only 0.0920.15 micrograms would be enough to kill a person, and that makes botulinum toxin type-A, the most toxic compound we know about, like on the planet ever,” they explained.

Bowler says if people are exposed to “too much” of this toxin, they could develop a rare but potentially fatal bacterial infection called botulism. 

“It can enter a person through a wound if you’re really unlucky, but most of the infections are inhaled as a stomach acid is better able to deal with the bacteria.”

Blower says there are antitoxins available, but for people who are diagnosed with botulism, it kills around seven per cent of people infected.

Introducing The Science Briefing: a podcast about the science of everything and your new go-to podcast for your snapshot of science news. Hosted by Dr Sophie Calabretto and featuring journalists from Cosmos Magazine. Hear it on the LiSTNR app now.