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A Brief History of Neurotoxins

Neurotoxins, like Botox and Dysport are used by millions worldwide for various treatments, most notably to soften or reduce moderate to severe wrinkles. But what is this class of neurotoxin?

Botulinum Toxin

The botulinum toxin was first called “sausage poison” by German physician Justin Kerner because it was found in individuals that had become sick from eating tainted sausage. Dr. Kerner also believed that it could have therapeutic use as far back as the 1800s. The bacteria was first isolated in 1895 by Professor Emile Van Ermengem, of Belgium and isolated in purified form botulinum toxin type A (BoNT-A) in 1928 by Dr. Herman Sommer, at the University of California, San Francisco. [1] [2]

Over the coming decades, it was discovered that BoNT-A blocks neuromuscular transmission. Fast forward to 1987 in Vancouver, Canada, where Drs. Jean and Alistair Carruthers accidentally discovered cosmetic properties of the toxin which was being used by ophthalmologists to treat various conditions. At the time, “Alistair divided his Vancouver dermatology practice between surgery for skin cancer and cosmetic procedures. He shared his office with Jean, an eye doctor who treated pediatric disorders as well as adult conditions such as [blepharospasm].”[3] Jean would get requests from her patients to inject them in the forehead because it made their wrinkles disappear. She discussed this with Alistair, who, along with his dermatology patients were increasingly frustrated with the dermal fillers at the time. The next day, they injected their receptionist. Following the effective result, Alistair was able to work with his dermatology patients, and by 1993, the treatment started to spread around the world.3

Botox and Dysport

In 2001 Canada approved Botox® Cosmetic, synthesized by Allergan for the treatment of moderate to severe frown lines, and in 2002 the US FDA did the same. 2 In 2009, Dysport® was also approved by the US FDA for the treatment of facial wrinkles.[4] BoNT can be broken down into [8][5] different neurotoxins that are structurally similar. A list of these, along with their brands can be found on Medscape’s website.


Botox and Dysport are purified versions of toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. When treated by licensed medical professionals, these products help reduce moderate to severe wrinkles for approximately 3 to 4 months by stopping the muscles from contracting. Although accidentally discovered for aesthetic treatments in 1987, the neurotoxin is used by millions of people worldwide and continues to grow exponentially. Botox and Dysport are two of our most popular treatments at Allure Rejuvenation Center.






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