|The Function of Nerve Agents.
Nerve agents may be absorbed into the body by a number of diffrent routes. When inhaled, the chemicals may be absorbed at any point between the mucosa of the mouth and the alveoli of the lungs. Other routes include absorption through the skin (especially through a wound), direct absorption through the eye and via the intestinal tract following ingestion of contaminated foodstuffs.
Effective defense against nerve agents involves protection of the whole body.
Once inside, the nerve agents affect the body in the following way. At nerve muscle junctions and many other synapses throughout the body, there exists an enzyme called Acetyl-cholinesterase. The action of this enzyme is to hydrolyse and thus break up molecules of acetylcholine which are released as a result of nerve signals reaching these synapses. In a normal synapse, when a nerve signal is recieved, millions of these acetylcholine molecules are released into the sinaptic cleft (a microscopic space between the neuron and muscle) and bind to acetylcholine receptors on the muscle. Under normal circumstances these are bound only for a few milliseconds as the acetylcholine molecules are rapidly hydrolysed by the acetyl-cholinesterase enzyme.