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SCIENCE: How VX nerve agent kills infographic




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Nerve agent used in murder of Kim Jong Nam

Graphic News

February 24, 2017 -- VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. VX blocks chemical signals transmitted between nerves to muscles, causing paralysis and respiratory failure.

VX is the deadliest nerve agent ever created. Once absorbed through the eyes, skin, or via inhalation, the VX molecule interferes with the way glands and muscles function by blocking an enzyme that allows them to relax.

An electric nerve impulse results in the release of acetylcholine over a synapse, stimulating a muscle contraction. The enzyme acetylcholinesterase subsequently hydrolyzes (breaks down) acetylcholine into non-reactive acetic acid and the vitamin, choline.

Link to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Nerve agents bind to the acetylcholinesterase molecule, blocking hydrolysis. Therefore, there is no way to stop the action of acetylcholine and muscles clench uncontrollably. After a victim has lost control of their bodily functions, they will lapse into a coma and suffocate to death as a result of convulsive spasms.

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