VCU researchers to study vitamin C as treatment for hemorrhagic shock

vcu-logoThe Department of Defense has awarded a $1 million grant to Virginia Commonwealth University researchers to test the use of vitamin C in preventing hemorrhagic shock-induced death.

Hemorrhagic shock occurs when the body begins to shut down due to heavy blood loss. It is the leading cause of death in people with traumatic injuries.

VCU researchers will determine whether high doses of vitamin C can normalize platelet function, the blood cells that are involved in clotting, after hemorrhagic shock has occurred. In addition, it is hoped that vitamin C will slow down the process of organ failure and restore normal organ physiology.

“This has significant implications at the battlefront and in subjects with penetrating trauma,” said co-principal investigator Ramesh Natarajan, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, VCU School of Medicine.

Since vitamin C is water soluble, it is easy to carry in pouches on the battlefield for intravenous, intramuscular or intraperitoneal administration.

“The ability of vitamin C to treat both abnormal coagulation and the inflammatory storm that results from injury makes it an attractive therapy,” said co-principal investigator Donald F. Brophy, Pharm.D, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacotherapy & Outcomes Science, VCU School of Pharmacy. Coagulopathy is a condition in which the blood’s ability to clot is impaired.

Natarajan is a co-principal investigator on a $3.2 million National Institute of Health grant that looked at using vitamin C to treat septic lung injury resulting from infection. In preclinical studies that were published in the Journal of Translational Medicine in January, researchers found that high doses of vitamin C prevented the inflammatory responses from sepsis. In the placebo group that did not get the vitamin C, mortality was 62 percent, but in the group that was administered vitamin C for four days, the mortality was 38 percent.

“There are many unexplored similarities between septic shock and hemorrhagic shock and trauma,” Natarajan said. He expects to see results from the DOD phase one trial within six months.

Researchers contributing on the grant include Alpha “Berry” Fowler III, M.D., chair of the Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine and professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, VCU School of Medicine; Penny S. Reynolds, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, VCU School of Medicine; and Bruce Spiess, M.D., director of the VCU Reanimation Engineering Shock Center and professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, VCU School of Medicine.

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