Chelation History

Chelation History

The father of modern biochemistry was the French-Swiss chemist, Alfred Werner, who in 1893 developed the theory of coordination compounds. Werner received the Nobel Prize in 1913 for this turning point in reclassifying inorganic chemical compounds.  He went on to describe the process by which metals bind to organic molecules, which is the basis for chelation chemistry.

Chelating molecules are water-soluble and form multiple-site complexes with metal ions, thus deactivating the metal ion.  Starting in the 1920’s, advances in chemistry caused many new compounds to be introduced, and in their manufacturing the elimination of heavy metal contamination was often crucial.  Citric acid was helpful, but in the mid 1930’s Germany was motivated to develop a more effective chelating material.  The synthetic substance they invented was EDTA.

Medical applications were not yet being considered for EDTA, but with World War II approaching, military workers were afraid of poison gas and searched for antidotes.  After World War II the new threat was atomic warfare and contamination by radioactive metal ions.  The United States began producing and stockpiling large quantities of EDTA.

The first medical application, performed in 1947 by Dr. Charles Geschickter at Georgetown University Medical Center, went largely unnoticed.  A patient undergoing chemotherapy had accumulated toxic nickel substances in her system.  Dr. Geschickter thought of EDTA as the only thing that could remove the contamination and he successfully used it to treat the patient.

In the 1950’s EDTA was tried with equal success in curing people with lead poisoning who were working in a battery plant.  The U.S. Navy also used it on people who had acquired lead poising while repainting old ships.  EDTA eliminated the poisoning, and some patients reported being relieved of atherosclerosis, chest pains, arthritis, memory loss and inability to concentrate.  From the 1950’s on, many doctors continued to utilize EDTA chelation therapy in a wide variety of medical applications with great success.

Heavy metal toxicity in humans may be associated with many adverse health conditions, including heart disease, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer’s disease, immune system disorders, gastrointestinal disorders (including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)), and autism.

Chelation therapy is a treatment that involves repeated intravenous (“IV”) administration of a chemical solution of EDTA. It is used to treat acute and chronic lead poisoning by pulling toxins (including heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury) from the bloodstream.

Chelation therapy using EDTA is the medically accepted treatment for lead poisoning.  Once in the bloodstream, EDTA traps lead and other metals, forming a compound that then is filtered out by the kidneys and excreted in the urine.  The process generally takes between 1 – 3 hours.  Other heavy metal poisonings treated with chelation include mercury, arsenic, aluminum, chromium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, selenium, zinc, tin, and thallium.  Chelating agents other than EDTA are also used to clear several of these substances from the bloodstream.

EDTA chelation therapy is approved by the FDA as a treatment for lead and heavy metal poisoning.  It is also used as an emergency treatment for hypercalcemia (excessive calcium levels) and the control of ventricular arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) associated with digitalis toxicity.

Studies by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council in the late 1960s indicated that EDTA was possibly effective in the treatment of arteriosclerosis (blocked arteries).

Based on previous publications and findings of IV EDTA chelation therapy and the extent of its use for over 50 years, the National Institutes of Health’s (“NIH”) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is currently conducting a “Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy” (“TACT”) with 1700 patients that have heart conditions.  The NIH awarded $30,000,000 in funding for this study.

This NIH funded a multi-centered ten year double blind placebo controlled trial in to assess the effects of I.V. EDTA chelation on the treatment of atherosclerosis in 1708 post myocardial infarctions (MI) subjects. The results showed patients who received EDTA chelation had fewer clinical events vs. placebo… significantly fewer MIs, fewer coronary revascularizations and fewer deaths. Two groups benefited most: diabetics and those who experienced an anterior myocardial infarctions.