- Press Release Distribution

Predominance of young Asian men among large UK case series of laughing gas users

May indicate genetic susceptibility to nerve damage from the gas or social factors, suggest researchers

( The largest clinical case series to date of recreational users of nitrous oxide, popularly known as laughing gas, has found a predominance of young men of Asian ethnicity among those with neurological side effects who were seen at hospitals in 3 major cities in England.

This may indicate genetic susceptibility to the nerve damage caused by exposure to the gas, or other, as yet unidentified, social factors, suggest the researchers by way of an explanation for the finding, published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. 

Nitrous oxide is widely used as an anaesthetic in people and animals, and as a painkiller in medicine and dentistry. It is the second most commonly used recreational drug among 16-24-year-olds in the UK,say the researchers.

Its use is associated with spinal cord and peripheral nerve damage (myeloneuropathy) in some people, but this is mostly based on small case series.

To strengthen the evidence base, the researchers describe a series of 119 young people with probable (39) or confirmed (80) myeloneuropathy caused by laughing gas use, all of whom were seen at hospitals in three of the UK’s largest cities: London (56), Birmingham (35), and Manchester (28) between 2014 and 2022. 

Nearly half these cases (57) were seen within the last 12 months of the study period.

Overall, the average age of those requiring treatment was 22, but ranged from 14 to 39, and 3 out of 4 were male, although a third of the patients in the London hospitals, which covered the East of the city, were female.

London also featured the highest proportion of drinkers and smokers, excess drinkers, and users of other recreational drugs, such as cannabis and cocaine.

Most patients were of Asian or Asian British ethnicity (57%; 68), with the highest proportion in London (73%; 41). Black patients made up 7.5% of the total; mixed race 6%, and White 19%. In 1 in 10 cases, ethnicity wasn’t recorded/known.

Given the census data on ethnicity for the 3 areas, “Asian or Asian British individuals presenting with [nitrous oxide]-related harm appear to be over-represented relative to the proportion of the population that is Asian or Asian British in each region,” note the researchers.

This “may highlight genetic, dietary, or nutritional predispositions to neurological damage from [nitrous oxide] exposure, but also may indicate social circumstances predicating use,” they suggest, adding that these issues warrant further investigation.

The most common presenting symptom (101; 85%) was pins and needles (paraesthesia) in the arms and legs, caused by spinal cord and peripheral nerve damage, seen on MRI imaging. 

The legs tended to be more commonly affected than the arms, and neurological examinations revealed unsteady walking (gait ataxia) in 80 patients. 

Additional symptoms included bladder (21 patients) and bowel (18) difficulties, poor balance or involuntary arm movements (pseudoathetosis) (13), Lhermitte’s sign—an electric shock sensation that runs down the spine on moving the neck—(10), and erectile dysfunction (7).

Other less common symptoms included memory and speech problems, visual disturbances and nausea/vomiting.

The quantity of use was recorded in two thirds of patients (78). Twenty said they used larger cylinders of 600 g, which contain around 75 times the amount of a single 8 g canister. 

Average weekly consumption amounted to 318 canisters, but ranged from 1 canister to 35 cylinders—equivalent to roughly 2800 canisters. Three out of four (76%, 91) patients said they were regular users while 14 (12%) said their use was sporadic.

Weekly nitrous oxide consumption was associated with the presence of blood markers indicating that vitamin B12 wasn’t functioning normally, the cause of the nerve damage. B12 injections are the main treatment, although these probably only work if nitrous oxide use is discontinued, say the researchers.

Follow up information was only available for 38 patients, but only 4 had no ongoing symptoms.

This is a case series, covering only certain areas of 3 cities in the UK, and may therefore not be representative of all young laughing gas users.

But, comment the researchers:“Preventable neurological harm from [nitrous oxide] abuse is increasingly seen worldwide. Ease of access to canisters and larger cylinders…..has led to an apparent rise in cases of [nitrous oxide]-myeloneuropathy in several areas of the UK.” 

They add: “Manufacturers and sellers of nitrous oxide should be held accountable for the apparent increase in harm through policy implementation and/or legislation.”  

[Since this research was accepted, the UK government has moved to ban retail sales of nitrous oxide]



Ketamine nasal spray may prove safe and effective treatment for refractory migraine

Ketamine taken in the form of a nasal spray may prove a safe and effective treatment for refractory chronic migraine, suggests a single centre study, published in the open access journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.  It’s a more convenient alternative to intravenous infusion—the usual method of administration for these patients—but the potential for overuse means that it should be reserved for those in whom other treatment approaches have failed, caution the researchers. Several clinical trials have shown ...

The clams that fell behind, and what they can tell us about evolution and extinction

The clams that fell behind, and what they can tell us about evolution and extinction
Every so often, life on Earth steps onto a nearly empty playing field and faces a spectacular opportunity. Something major changes—in the atmosphere or in the oceans, or in the organisms themselves —and the existing species begin to branch out into a brand-new world. Scientists are fascinated by this process, because it’s a unique look into evolution at pivotal moments in the history of life. A new study led by scientists with the University of Chicago examined how bivalves—the group that includes clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters—evolved among many others in the period of rapid evolution known as the Cambrian Explosion. The team found ...

Medical school does not equip new doctors for the real working world, junior doctor warns

Clinician burnout and overwork are known to adversely affect patient safety and junior doctors may be particularly vulnerable, research suggests. The UK is facing a crisis in recruitment and retention in medicine, with a recent survey by the British Medical Association reporting that 4 in 10 junior doctors will quit their roles as soon as they find another job. Considering the immense pressure doctors are under, with their decisions having the potential to shape the course of patients’ illnesses and even their lives, is a balanced and happy life as a doctor still possible? In a new book released today titled The Bleep Test, junior doctor Luke Austen has combined ...

Unique “bawdy bard” act discovered, revealing 15th-century roots of British comedy

Unique “bawdy bard” act discovered, revealing 15th-century roots of British comedy
University of Cambridge media release UNDER STRICT EMBARGO UNTIL 00:01AM (UK TIME) ON WEDNESDAY 31ST MAY 2023 An unprecedented record of medieval live comedy performance has been identified in a 15th-century manuscript. Raucous texts – mocking kings, priests and peasants; encouraging audiences to get drunk; and shocking them with slapstick – shed new light on Britain’s famous sense of humour and the role played by minstrels in medieval society. The texts contain the earliest recorded use of ‘red herring’ in English, extremely rare forms of medieval literature, as well as a ...

Saved from extinction, Southern California’s Channel Island Foxes now face new threat to survival

Tiny foxes — each no bigger than a five-pound housecat — inhabiting the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California were saved from extinction in 2016. However, new research reveals that the foxes now face a different threat to their survival. Suzanne Edmands, professor of biological sciences at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and Nicole Adams, who earned her PhD from USC Dornsife in 2019, found that the foxes’ genetic diversity has decreased over time, possibly jeopardizing their survival ...

Genetic change increased bird flu severity during U.S. spread

Genetic change increased bird flu severity during U.S. spread
(MEMPHIS, Tenn. – May 29, 2023) St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists discovered how the current epizootic H5N1 avian influenza virus (bird flu) gained new genes and greater virulence as it spread west. Researchers showed that the avian virus could severely infect the brains of mammalian research models, a notable departure from previous related strains of the virus. The researchers genetically traced the virus’ expansion across the continent and its establishment in wild waterfowl populations to understand what makes it so different. The study was recently published in Nature Communications.   “We ...

New Jersey Health Foundation awards grants to Kessler Foundation to advance research in brain and spinal cord stimulation methods

New Jersey Health Foundation awards grants to Kessler Foundation to advance research in brain and spinal cord stimulation methods
East Hanover, NJ – May 30, 2023 – Annually, New Jersey Health Foundation (NJHF) invites researchers to submit applications for grants aimed at supporting pilot research projects that exhibit promising potential. These grants serve as opportunities for scientists to utilize their initial findings to secure further funding and progress their research. This year, NJHF granted awards to two Kessler Foundation scientists to conduct studies that expand research in upper extremity exercise after stroke ...

Extracting a clean fuel from water

Extracting a clean fuel from water
A plentiful supply of clean energy is lurking in plain sight. It is the hydrogen we can extract from water (H2O) using renewable energy. Scientists are seeking low-cost methods for producing clean hydrogen from water to replace fossil fuels, as part of the quest to combat climate change. Hydrogen can power vehicles while emitting nothing but water. Hydrogen is also an important chemical for many industrial processes, most notably in steel making and ammonia production. Using cleaner hydrogen is highly desirable in those industries. “By using ...

NJIT researchers awarded $4.6m to unlock mysteries of solar eruptions

NJIT researchers awarded $4.6m to unlock mysteries of solar eruptions
A New Jersey Institute of Technology research team led by physics professor Wenda Cao at the university’s Center for Solar Terrestrial Research (CSTR) has been awarded a $4.64 million National Science Foundation grant to continue leading explorations of the Sun’s explosive activity at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO). The grant marks the largest project that the Solar-Terrestrial Research Program under NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) supports, extending five more years of baseline funding for all science, instrumentation and education activities at BBSO, located at California’s Big Bear Lake. The ...

Extended lymph node removal does not benefit patients with clinically localized muscle-invasive bladder cancer

An extended lymphadenectomy – removal of additional lymph nodes beyond the extent of the standard procedure – in patients undergoing radical cystectomy (removal of bladder and nearby tissues) because of clinically localized muscle-invasive bladder cancer provides no patient benefit as measured by disease-free survival or overall survival times. It does, however, increase the risk of adverse events (side effects) and post-surgical death. These primary results from the phase 3 SWOG S1011 clinical ...


Mothers live longer as child mortality declines

Study reveals promising development in cancer-fighting nanotechnologies

Fat cells influence heart health in Chagas disease

C-Path’s TRxA announces its first biologics-focused RFP for academic investigators

Enhancing superconductivity of graphene-calcium superconductors

Federal Trade Commission actions on prescription drugs, 2000-2022

Fluoride exposure during pregnancy linked to increased risk of childhood neurobehavioral problems, study finds

The Ukraine war caused migrating eagles to deviate from their usual flight plan

Endangered migrating eagles impacted by Ukraine war

Study explores association between fluoride exposure in pregnancy and neurobehavioral issues in young children

Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy to design safer, higher-performance lithium batteries

Should your exercise goals be in minutes or steps? Study suggests they are equally beneficial

Racial and ethnic inequities in cancer care continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic among those with SARS-CoV-2

Effect of sleep restriction on adolescent cognition by adiposity

Webb Telescope offers first glimpse of an exoplanet’s interior

Alkyl-aromatic hybrid micelles formed from emergent umbrella-shaped molecules

First study from the African Ancestry Neuroscience Research Initiative identifies key genes in the brain that account for higher rates of some brain disorders in Black Americans

NIH awards Coast-to-Coast Consortium $5.6 million for All of Us Research Program

Ben-Gurion University scientist hunts for drug candidate to treat brain tumors

New Health Blueprint maps healthier future for rural, underserved Southwest Virginia

Survival benefit associated with participation in clinical trials of anticancer drugs

Expanding on the fundamental principles of liquid movement

Chemical Insights Research Institute partners with Duke University and the East-West Center to examine dust and ash from devastating Hawai’ian wildfires

NCCN publishes new resource for patients with intestinal cancer type most have never heard of before diagnosis

Subduction zone splay faults compound hazards of great earthquakes

Record low Antarctic sea ice ‘extremely unlikely’ without climate change

After hundreds of years, study confirms Bermuda now home to cownose rays

Scientists uncover promising treatment target for resistant brain cancer

Revolutionizing cancer treatment by intracellular protein delivery using hybrid nanotubes

Chemist Julian West makes C&EN magazine’s ‘Talented 12’ list

[] Predominance of young Asian men among large UK case series of laughing gas users
May indicate genetic susceptibility to nerve damage from the gas or social factors, suggest researchers