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Journal of Applied Genetics 46(3), 2005, pp. 319-324

Genotoxicity of the volatile anaesthetic desflurane in human lymphocytes in vitro, established by comet assay

Tomasz M. Karpinski, Magdalena Kostrzewska-Poczekaj, Ireneusz Stachecki, Adam Mikstacki, Krzysztof Szyfter

Abstract: The aim of the present study was to estimate the genotoxicity of desflurane, applied as a volatile anaesthetic. The potential genotoxicity was determined by the comet assay as the extent of DNA fragmentation in human peripheral blood lymphocytes in vitro. The comet assay detects DNA strand breaks induced directly by genotoxic agents as well as DNA fragmentation due to cell death. Another anaesthetic, halothane, already proved to be a genotoxic agent, was used as a positive control. Both analysed drugs were capable of increasing DNA migration in a dose-dependent manner under experimental conditions applied. The results of the study demonstrated that the genotoxicity of desflurane was comparable with that of halothane. However, considering the pharmacodynamics of both drugs, the genotoxic activity of desflurane may be connected with a less harmful effect on the exposed patients or medical staff.

Key words: comet assay, desflurane, genotoxicity, halothane, inhalation anesthetics.

Correspondence: T.M. Karpinski, Laboratory of Mutagenesis, Institute of Human Genetics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Strzeszynska 32, 60-479 Poznan, Poland, e-mail:

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