Manganese - Strengthening steel and weakening brains

  • metal used to strengthen steel
  • much cooler than magnesium (seriously, it even sounds better...try saying it out loud...manganese...mmmmanganeeeeeese)
  • an essential trace nutrient required by all living organisms (functions as a cofactor for a number of enzymes including superoxide dismutase)
  • present in extremely large quantities in manganese nodules on the ocean floor (there was a big commotion in the 70s about mining these little bastards but it has since been deemed too expensive a proposition)
  • dilute solutions of potassium permanganate, a manganese salt, are employed as a topical treatment for canker sores (which, unlike cold sores, are not transmittable) mild dyshidrosis, and fungal infections affecting the hands or feet
    • permanganate has also been used by clandestine drug manufacturers in Eastern Europe to synthesize methcathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant, from pseudoephedrine (often found in cold medications)
    • this process results in the production of a mixture known as "ephedrone" that contains methcathinone as well as manganese (as a byproduct), and so is capable of causing manganese poisoning
  • exposure to this metal (e.g. miners, smelters, and welders) has been linked to three distinct forms of neurotoxicity:
  1. "manganism" featuring dramatic symptoms resembling idiopathic Parkinson's disease (IPD) but unlike IPD not being responsive to dopamine replacement and featuring early personality changes
  2. subtle neuropsychological abnormalities (exposed workers exhibited poorer performance on neurophysiological tests compared to unexposed workers)
  3. actual IPD that is responsive to dopamine replacement
- Martin CJ. Manganese neurotoxicity: connecting the dots along the continuum of dysfunction. Neurotoxicology. 2006 May;27(3):347-9.
- Sanotsky Y et al. Manganic encephalopathy due to "ephedrone" abuse. Mov Disord. 2007 Jun 12; [Epub ahead of print]
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manganese

2 chemically inspired comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, a good deal of the excitement about deep-sea mining of the manganese nodules was the result of it being a cover story for a CIA project to retrieve a sunken Russian submarine. You can't make things like this up...

CND said...

Cool. Thanks for setting off an hour-long Wikipedia binge. I think I read every article on CIA covert ops.