Renowned inorganic chemist at Texas A&M University, Kim Renee Dunbar expounds the usefulness of metals in medicine and explains how some positively impact our bodies.
Kim Renee Dunbar is a University Distinguished Professor who holds the Davidson Professor of Science title in the Chemistry Department at Texas A&M University. Over the years, she and her research team have received many top industry awards and international distinctions for their contributions to the international scientific community.
Often, Dr. Dunbar’s work leads her into the subject of metals in medicine, which she has written extensively on during her decades-long career. Here, she explains the usefulness of metals in medicine and discusses a few ways we’ve taken advantage of their healthy properties.
“We’ve used metals in medicine for thousands and thousands of years throughout a variety of cultures around the world,” says Kim Renee Dunbar. “Iron, for instance, was used to treat anemia and copper to treat inflammation in ancient civilizations. Today, we use metal in the treatment of cancer and other aggressive illnesses. Platinum-based drugs have proven especially helpful against fighting cancer, and we’re continually discovering new solutions for it and other metal-based approaches to medicine in general.”
Platinum drugs have been a major resource for fighting cancer since at least 1978 when the popular treatment Cisplatin was introduced. The platinum compounds are useful because they’re naturally negatively charged and become positively charged within cancer cells as water molecules replace chloride ions, driving them back. Kim Renee Dunbar goes on to say that the medical field also relies on metal ions in capital equipment processes such as medical imaging when searching for a diagnosis (such as in MRIs and radioisotope imaging), and that metals are also an essential part of our own bodies.
“Our bodies depend on certain metals and can severely degrade without proper amounts of them,” says Kim Renee Dunbar. “A lack of iron can result in anemia, and a lack of copper in infants can lead to heart disease and developmental issues among other potential effects.”
The human body uses metal to perform essential biological functions such as transporting oxygen throughout and prompting enzyme function. Gold salt complexes are used today by medical professionals treating arthritis while lithium has been used to treat manic depressive disorder. Silver is used in burn victims to help prevent wound infections while bismuth is commonly used as an antacid.
“Besides depending on metals to survive, we’ve found a number of powerful remedies using metal-based medicine that are utilized the world over,” says Kim Renee Dunbar. “Our research program at Texas A&M addresses several issues in the area of metals in medicinal applications, helping expand the possibilities of medicine everywhere.”