Altern Med Rev. 1998 Apr; 3(2): 114-27.
Clinical applications of N-acetylcysteine.
Alternative Medicine Review, Greenwich, CT.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC), the acetylated variant of the amino acid L-cysteine, is an excellent source of sulfhydryl (SH) groups, and is converted in the body into metabolites capable of stimulating glutathione (GSH) synthesis, promoting detoxification, and acting directly as free radical scavengers. Administration of NAC has historically been as a mucolytic agent in a variety of respiratory illnesses; however, it appears to also have beneficial effects in conditions characterized by decreased GSH or oxidative stress, such as HIV infection, cancer, heart disease, and cigarette smoking. An 18-dose oral course of NAC is currently the mainstay of treatment for acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity. N-acetylcysteine also appears to have some clinical usefulness as a chelating agent in the treatment of acute heavy metal poisoning, both as an agent capable of protecting the liver and kidney from damage and as an intervention to enhance elimination of the metals.