* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received January 15, 2009
In various organisms, an array of enzymes is involved in the synthesis and breakdown of methylglyoxal. Through these enzymes, it is intimately linked to several other physiologically important metabolites, suggesting that methylglyoxal has some important role to play in the host organism. Several in vitro and in vivo studies showed that methylglyoxal acts specifically against different types of malignant cells. These studies culminated in a recent investigation to evaluate a methylglyoxal-based formulation in treating a small group of cancer patients, and the results were promising. Methylglyoxal acts against a number of pathogenic microorganisms. However, recent literature abounds with the toxic effects of methylglyoxal, which are supposed to be mediated through methylglyoxal-derived advanced glycation end products (AGE). Many diseases such as diabetes, cataract formation, hypertension, and uremia are proposed to be intimately linked with methylglyoxal-derived AGE. However methylglyoxal-derived AGE formation and subsequent pathogenesis might be a very minor event because AGE are nonspecific reaction products that are derived through the reactions of carbonyl groups of reducing sugars with amino groups present in the side chains of lysine and arginine and in terminal amino groups of proteins. Moreover, the results of some in vitro experiments with methylglyoxal under non-physiological conditions were extrapolated to the in vivo situation. Some experiments even showed contradictory results and were differently interpreted. For this reason conclusions about the potential beneficial effects of methylglyoxal have often been neglected, thus hindering the advancement of medical science and causing some confusion in fundamental understanding. Overall, the potential beneficial effects of methylglyoxal far outweigh its possible toxic role in vivo, and it should be utilized for the benefit of suffering humanity.
KEY WORDS: methylglyoxal, advanced glycation end products, glucose, cancer, antiviral