Glutathione is a mitochondrial antioxidant, and additional antioxidant capacity in mitochondria appears to be beneficial to long-term health, improving mitochondrial function and overall health. Mitochondria conduct the energetic process of producing ATP, used to power the cell, with a flux of oxidative molecules as a side-effect. With age, mitochondria tend to become less efficient and produce more oxidizing molecules, harmful to the cell. Glutathione levels decline with age, which may contribute to this age-related mitochondrial dysfunction.
Oral supplementation with gluthatione doesn't have any effect, unfortunately, but researchers recently published a small study of supplementation with large amounts of glutathione precursors. This caused increased gluthatione manufacture, increased glutathione in blood samples, and measurable benefits to health in old individuals. Here, researchers provide evidence for an iontophoresis approach for the delivery of glutathione through the skin via an electrical field, an intriguing option to be compared against intravenous administration when considering relative costs and benefits.
Glutathione (GSH) is the most abundant antioxidant in human cells. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced in the body can promote oxidative damage to cells and may cause genomic instability and mitochondrial dysfunction, two hallmarks of aging. The concentration of GSH has been shown to decrease with aging, resulting in reduced antioxidant activity in cells. Consequently, lower GSH levels have been associated with an increased risk of aging-associated diseases. Relatively higher blood levels of GSH, on the other hand, are associated with improved physical and mental health in older individuals. Supplementation of GSH may, therefore, protect against age-related morbidity and mortality.
In recent years, intravenous supplementation has become a popular method to restore GSH levels. It is an effective method but has its limitations as it is only accessible in a specialty clinic setting and is expensive and inconvenient for patients. Two aging patients with low serum GSH levels were supplemented with GSH in our clinic using a non-invasive drug delivery device, the IontoPatch, to deliver GSH through the skin. The IontoPatch technology uses bipolar electric fields, iontophoresis, to deliver molecules across the skin into the underlying tissue. Iontophoresis is widely used in physical therapy for localized treatment of pain and inflammation.
A 1 mL dose of a 200 mg/mL saline solution of GSH was added to the patch's negative electrode for each treatment. The patch was applied on the upper arm's skin and was worn for six consecutive days for at least four hours each day. Serum levels of GSH were assessed at baseline and days 7 and 23 after treatment was initiated. In both cases, serum GSH levels increased after seven days of treatment (64.4% and 21.8%). Serum GSH levels then decreased between days 7 and 23 to 44.5% and 17.2% above baseline. There were no adverse events reported in either case. More extensive studies should be conducted to determine the pharmacokinetics, safety of long-term supplementation, and supplementation health benefits.