Methylene Blue, an Antioxidant and Energy Producer
While it has several mechanisms of action, a unique feature is that it acts on the level of electrons. In this interview, Francisco Gonzalez-Lima, Ph.D. explains:
“Our body uses electrons as part of the electron transport chain that happens inside mitochondria, and these electrons, moved along through the mitochondria, are generated from electron donors that we produce by the foods that we eat.
All the foods that we eat, the only way they contribute to energy is by producing electron donors. They donate these electrons to the electron transport inside the mitochondria. The ultimate electron acceptor in nature is oxygen. That’s why the process of removing electrons from a compound is referred to as oxidation.
In mitochondria, this process is called oxidative phosphorylation. The electron transport is coupled with the phosphorylation of adenosine to eventually produce the adenosine triphosphate molecule (ATP). Methylene blue is an electron cycler. It’s an auto-oxidizing compound.
So, methylene blue donates its electrons directly to the electron transport chain, it obtains electrons from surrounding compounds, and maintains oxygen consumption and energy production. By doing this, it helps oxygen to be fully reduced into water.
So, it becomes two things that are often not found together. It acts as an antioxidant, because oxygen is neutralized into water by donating electrons to the electron transport, and it produces energy, because when the electron transport pumps are moving along oxidative phosphorylation, you have an increase in ATP formation.
Oftentimes, we have things that improve energy metabolism, but then they lead to oxidative stress. In the case of methylene blue, that’s not the case.
You can increase oxygen consumption rates, increase ATP production for energy metabolism, and at the same time reduce oxidative stress which, of course, will lead to reduction in oxidative damage at the level of mitochondria, then at the level of the other parts of the cells, and eventually membranes of the cells, and reactions that are cascades of this oxidative damage.”
Basically, as an electron cycler, methylene blue acts like a battery, but unlike other compounds that do the same thing, it doesn’t cause damaging oxidation in the process. If anything interferes with oxygenation or cellular respiration, such as cyanide, methylene blue is able to bypass that point of interference through electron cycling, thus allowing mitochondrial respiration, oxygen consumption and energy production to function as it normally would.