A metallic element with the atomic symbol V, atomic number 23, and atomic weight 50.94. It is used in the manufacture of vanadium steel. Prolonged exposure can lead to chronic intoxication caused by absorption usually via the lungs.


Vanadium is a steel-grey, corrosion-resistant metal, which exists in oxidation states ranging from -1 to +5. Metallic vanadium does not occur in nature, and the most common valence states are +3, +4, and +5. The pentavalent form (VO3-) predominates in extracellular body fluids whereas the quadrivalent form (VO+2) is the most common intracellular form. Because of its hardness and its ability to form alloys, vanadium (i.e., ferrovanadium) is a common component of hard steel alloys used in machines and tools. Although most foods contain low concentrations of vanadium (< 1 ng/g), food is the major source of exposure to vanadium for the general population. High air concentrations of vanadium occur in the occupation setting during boiler-cleaning operations as a result of the presence of vanadium oxides in the dust. The lungs absorb soluble vanadium compounds (V2O5) well, but the absorption of vanadium salts from the gastrointestinal tract is poor. The excretion of vanadium by the kidneys is rapid with a biological half-life of 20-40 hours in the urine. Physiologically, it exists as an ion in the body. Vanadium is probably an essential trace element, but a vanadium-deficiency disease has not been identified in humans. The estimated daily intake of the US population ranges from 10-60 micrograms V. Vanadyl sulfate is a common supplement used to enhance weight training in athletes at doses up to 60 mg/d. In vitro and animal studies indicate that vanadate and other vanadium compounds increase glucose transport activity and improve glucose metabolism. In general, the toxicity of vanadium compounds is low. Pentavalent compounds are the most toxic and the toxicity of vanadium compounds usually increases as the valence increases. Most of the toxic effects of vanadium compounds result from local irritation of the eyes and upper respiratory tract rather than systemic toxicity. The only clearly documented effect of exposure to vanadium dust is upper respiratory tract irritation characterized by rhinitis, wheezing, nasal hemorrhage, conjunctivitis, cough, sore throat, and chest pain. Case studies have described the onset of asthma after heavy exposure to vanadium compounds, but clinical studies to date have not detected an increased prevalence of asthma in workers exposed to vanadium. Vanadium is a trace element present in practically all cells in plants and animals. It exerts interesting actions in living systems. At pharmacological doses, vanadium compounds display relevant biological actions such as mimicking insulin and growth factors as well as having osteogenic activity. Some vanadium compounds also show antitumoral properties. The importance of vanadium in bone arises from the studies developed to establish the essentiality of this element in animals and humans. Bone tissue, where the element seems to play an important role, accumulates great amounts of vanadium. Among several metals, vanadium has emerged as an extremely potent agent with insulin-like properties. These insulin-like properties have been demonstrated in isolated cells, tissues, different animal models of type I and type II diabetes as well as a limited number of human subjects. Vanadium treatment has been found to improve abnormalities of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and of gene expression in rodent models of diabetes. In isolated cells, it enhances glucose transport, glycogen and lipid synthesis, and inhibits gluconeogenesis and lipolysis. The molecular mechanism responsible for the insulin-like effects of vanadium compounds have been shown to involve the activation of several key components of insulin-signaling pathways that include the mitogen-activated-protein kinases (MAPKs) extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) and p38MAPK, and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-K)/protein kinase B (PKB). (A7727, A7728, A7729)

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