Glutathione is produced in the human liver and plays a key role in intermediary metabolism, immune response and health, though many of its mechanisms and much of its behavior await further medical understanding.
It is also known as gamma-Glutamylcysteineglycine and GHS. It is a small protein composed of three amino acids, cysteine, glutamic acid and glyceine.
Glutatione is found in two forms, a monomerthat is a single molecule of the protein, and a dimmer that is two of the single molecules joined together.
The monomer is sometimes called reduced glutathione, while the dimmer is also called oxidized glutathione.
The monomer is the active form of glutathione. Oxidized glutathione is broken down to the single molecule by an enzyme called glutathione reductase.
Glutathione, in purified extracted form, is a white powder that is soluble in water and in alcohol.
It is found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, and meats. However, absorption rates of glutathione from food sources in the human gastrointestinal tract are low.
General use :
Glutathione was first isolated in yeast in 1929. Its metabolism in the body was described in 1984, and its role in cancer treatment dates from 1984.
Glutathione is a major antioxidant highly active in human lungs and many other organ systems and tissues.
It has many reported uses. It has a critical role in protecting cells from oxidative stress and maintaining the immune system.
Higher blood levels of glutathione have been associated with better health in elderly people, but the exact association between glutathione and the aging process has not been determined.
Among the uses that have been reported for glutathione are:
*treatment of poisoning, particularly heavy metal poisons
*treatment of idiopathic pulmonary firbosis
*increasing the effectiveness and reducing the toxicity of cis-platinum, a chemo drug used to treat breast cancer
*treating Parkinson's disease
*lowering blood pressure in patients with diabetes
*increasing male sperm counts in humans
*treatment of liver cancer
*treatment of sickle cell anemia
*Claims made about glutathione have included that it will increase energy, improve concentration, slow aging, and protect the skin.
The importance of glutathione is generally recognized, although its specific functions and appropriate clinical use remain under study.
Similarly, because ingested glutathione has little or no effect on intracellular glutathione levels, there are questions regarding the optimal method for raising the intracellular levels.
In addition to ongoing studies of the role of glutathione in cancer and cancer therapy, there are currently clinical trials of glutathione in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The U. S. National Cancer Institute has included glutathione in a study to determine whether nutritional factors could inhibit development of some types of cancer.
European researchers, with support from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, are examining the potential uses of inhaled glutathione in cystic fibrosis.
Some physicians also use inhaled glutathione in treating airway restriction and asthma.
Other studies are investigating whether administration of alpha-lipoic acid, a material that can elevate intracellular glutathione, may be beneficial in restoring the immune system in AIDS patients.