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Basic Information

Dimethyl sulphoxide - more commonly known as DMSO is an organosulphur compound, typically a by-product of the paper making industry, with a variety of medical, scientific and industrial uses.

Industrially DMSO is used as a solvent in many kinds of synthetic chemistry and, increasingly in the production of semi-conductors, printed circuit boards and LCD screens.

Science adds to these uses roles in PCR and in the protection of cells undergoing cryogenic storage and as a common, wide spectrum solvent in NMR imaging experiments.

Medically DMSO can be used on its own to treat a variety of conditions (including odemas and buildups of intracranial pressure) and may have some ability to protect the liver from the side effects of acetaminophen/paracetemol, but its main application is as a potent excipient that can carry pretty much any compound through skin (and keratin based surfaces like fingernails). This makes it an attractive - and non-invasive - way of delivering some drugs, especially those required in a specific area of the body, but also leads to its final - and less savoury - field of application.

On its own, DMSO is of very low toxicity - although it appears to cause nerve damage at very high doses - but its ability to carry other compounds across (human) skin means it can turn practically any poison into a contact toxin. This can be done deliberately (as in the 1970s anarchist practice of painting door handles with LSD dissolved in DMSO) or accidentally - often during preparation of samples for NMR imaging (DMSO is also fairly good at penetrating lab gloves). Since DMSO is fairly dense, glutinous and non-volatile a DMSO solution of poison can stay active and adhered to a surface for a surprisingly long time. One of the key diagnostic symptoms of DMSO "poisoning" is a spurious onion or garlic like flavour in the mouth or a phantom onion-garlic smell … this smell may also be communicated to the patient's urine in a high enough dose.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A good source of contact poisons.
  • And likewise a good way to weaponise your green rocks for delivery to target.
  • Use the 'phantom taste/smell' as a code which PCs with the right knowledge skills can pick up on.
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