Medicine
Fact-checked

At TheHealthBoard, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is an Anticholinesterase?

Anticholinesterase is a potent chemical that inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine, a vital neurotransmitter, enhancing nerve signal transmission. This action has profound implications for treating conditions like Alzheimer's and myasthenia gravis. Intrigued by how this substance can impact health and medicine? Discover its diverse applications and the science behind its power in our comprehensive visual guide. What might its role be in future treatments?
Helga George
Helga George

An anticholinesterase is a chemical that inhibits the breakdown of an enzyme involved in the transmission of signals between nerve cells and muscles. It is found naturally in some snake venoms. Such a compound has uses ranging from the treatment of diseases to use as pesticides or as weapons of mass destruction.

Many of the body’s neurons rely on acetylcholine to transmit signals between the neuron and a muscle. After the muscle has been signaled to contract, it needs to relax. Cholinesterase enzyme breaks down the acetylcholine, enabling this relaxation to occur.

Alzheimer's can be treated with anticholinesterase inhibitors.
Alzheimer's can be treated with anticholinesterase inhibitors.

If an anticholinesterase is present, the muscle is unable to relax. It will keep contracting, which can lead to paralysis and eventually death by asphyxiation. There are different types of anticholinesterase inhibitors, also known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Ones used medically to treat diseases are reversible. Those used to kill insects or poison people, such as nerve gas or some snake venoms, bind irreversibly. This makes them much more dangerous to humans.

Anticholinesterase inhibitors can be used to treat Lewy body dementia.
Anticholinesterase inhibitors can be used to treat Lewy body dementia.

Intentional or accidental pesticide poisoning is a worldwide problem. The classes of pesticides that are anticholintesterases are organophosphates and carbamates. It is recommended that people who will be working with one of these classes of pesticides be tested for their blood baseline levels of cholinesterase. This provides a benchmark in case the person is exposed to high levels of pesticide, so that medical personnel can determine whether the person has been exposed to a toxic level. One problem to this monitoring is that levels below those that affect blood cholinesterase levels have been found to cause toxicity to neurons.

Some pesticides contain anticholinesterase, which may be dangerous for workers.
Some pesticides contain anticholinesterase, which may be dangerous for workers.

Organophosphate compounds can also be potent nerve gases. Sarin is the most well known of these compounds. This compound was vaporized on the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 12 people. Sarin is much more toxic even than cyanide. There are international treaties prohibiting its manufacture.

Medical conditions treated with an anticholinesterase include myasthenia gravis and several types of dementia. For myasthenia gravis treatment, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are the first treatment used. This disease has symptoms of muscle weakness and prevents acetylcholine from stimulating the muscles. Thus, treatment with an anticholinesterase, such as pyridostigmine, helps restore muscle function. This compound is usually introduced at a low dose and gradually increased.

Both Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) have been treated with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Alzheimer’s disease was formerly thought to be due to an inadequate supply of acetylcholine. The treatment of this disease with these inhibitors has not been found to be very effective, however. Current research focuses more on a different pathology of the disease.

LBD is a widespread form of dementia, second in prevalence only to Alzheimer’s. Patients exhibit a mixture of symptoms of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are used to treat the cognitive decline associated with the dementia caused by this disease.

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Alzheimer's can be treated with anticholinesterase inhibitors.
      By: Robert Kneschke
      Alzheimer's can be treated with anticholinesterase inhibitors.
    • Anticholinesterase inhibitors can be used to treat Lewy body dementia.
      By: rainbow33
      Anticholinesterase inhibitors can be used to treat Lewy body dementia.
    • Some pesticides contain anticholinesterase, which may be dangerous for workers.
      By: perfectmatch
      Some pesticides contain anticholinesterase, which may be dangerous for workers.