Illustration for article titled Blue Food Coloring Could Be Better For You Than You Ever Imagined

Coomassie Brilliant Blue, or Brilliant Blue G, is a dye first manufactured in 1913 as a way of staining cloth. Over time, and with testing, it made the jump to food. Is it bad for you? No. In fact, it’s so good that doctors may one day use it to treat spinal cord injuries.


Brilliant Blue G, or BBG, is a complicated hexagonal web of atoms that is probably used to dye most of the blue foodstuff that you eat. It’s extremely useful, in part because it doesn’t seem to have any negative effects on human beings. Its benignity encouraged doctors to use it during eye surgery. The delicate surgery requires doctors to have a clear picture of the inside of the eye, and BBG stains membrane that separates the retina from inner goop of the eye, allowing them to see it more clearly.

Doctors who used BBG during eye surgery found that it wasn’t just a useful tool for seeing the eye, it was also a way of healing the eye. The dye helped the retina heal faster. The healing ability was not limited to BBG, since other dyes could also encouraged healing, but it did show that BBG had promise as a form of medicine.


Coomassie Blue may help reduce the damage of one of the most serious injuries that we can sustain; a spinal injury. After injury to the spinal cord, the area around the injury sometimes swells, which cuts off oxygen to the cord and does further damage. Rats injected with BBG within the first fifteen minutes after a spinal injury had significantly less damage to the spinal cord than rats that weren’t injected with the substance. They seemed to suffer no ill effects from the chemical.

Granted, even if BBG works on humans the way it does on rats, the chemical would have to be injected extremely quickly. (Although researchers are testing to see if BBG can have similar effects if injected two hours after the injury.) Still, it’s an encouraging result.

BBG injections had one quirk. Although they had no ill effects on the rats, they did temporarily turn the rats blue. While it’s probably irresponsible to want to be injected with BBG just to run around being blue, I still do want to try it. It would make a great fad fashion.

Top Image: Evan Amos

[Source: PNAS ]


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