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Idebenone is a synthetic variant of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). It is an organic compound found in the quinone family, and is almost identical in structure and function to CoQ10. The word idebenone is pronounced as 'eye-deb-eh-known', with the emphasis placed on the second syllable.
This compound was originally manufactured in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when research into the function of coenzyme Q10 was conducted. CoQ10 is an essential part of the electron transfer chain, which is an integral step in the production of the body's main energy source, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Organs that have the largest need for energy will also have the largest concentration of both ATP and CoQ10. Without sufficient coenzyme Q10, the human body will not be able to produce enough energy to function, and will die. Seeking an even more functional version of CoQ10, researchers synthesized a number of trial drugs, but very few were stable or even safe. Idebenone showed promise, and so more research into its capabilities was done.
Data now shows that idebenone and CoQ10 are interchangeable in the human body, and idebenone can supplant CoQ10 in the electron transfer chain with no ill effects. Both substances are in effect antioxidants, meaning that they are able to limit the amount of free radicals present in the body. They do this by inhibiting the ability of free radicals to create lipoperoxides, which are cells whose lipid walls have had electrons removed. Once an electron has been removed from a membrane, cell damage is inevitable and may cause mutagenic and carcinogenic effects.
Idebenone has also been tested for use against Friedreich's ataxia. This condition was first documented in the 1860s by a German physician named Nicholaus Friedreich. It is an inherited condition that damages the nervous system over time, resulting in speech impairments, cardiac degradation, and difficultly walking. The condition affects one out of every 50,000 people in the United States. Clinical trials have shown idebenone to be effective in mitigating the rate of cardiac damage, but ineffective in halting the progress of ataxia itself, which refers to any awkward movements or unsteadiness.
Recently, CoQ10 has been shown to be a moderately effective skin treatment for reducing wrinkles. Idebenone cream is also being marketed as a skin cream, but limited trials have been conducted to determine its usefulness. Despite its history as a CoQ10 analouge, many companies are marketing this compound as a breakthrough skin care product. Though it is inexpensive to produce this compound, it is sold at a far higher price than coenzyme Q10 products.