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Dimethyl sulfoxide

Dimethyl sulfoxide
IUPAC name Dimethyl sulfoxide
Other names Methyl sulfoxide
CAS number 67-68-5
RTECS number PV6210000
Molecular formula C2H6OS
Molar mass 78.13 g/mol
Appearance Clear, colorless liquid
Density 1.1004 g/cm3, liquid
Melting point

18.5 °C (292 K)

Boiling point

189 °C (462 K)

Solubility in water Miscible
Acidity (pKa) 35
Refractive index (nD) 1.479
εr = 48
Viscosity 1.996 cP at 20 °C
Dipole moment 3.96 D
MSDS External MSDS
MSDS DMSO Material Safety Data Sheet
Main hazards Irritant (Xi)
NFPA 704
R-phrases R36/37/38
S-phrases S26, S37/39
Flash point 95 °C
Related Compounds
Related sulfoxides diethyl sulfoxide
Related compounds sodium methylsulfinylmethylide,
dimethyl sulfide,
dimethyl sulfone,
Supplementary data page
Structure and
n, εr, etc.
Phase behaviour
Solid, liquid, gas
Spectral data UV, IR, NMR, MS
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state
(at 25 °C, 100 kPa)

Infobox disclaimer and references

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is the chemical compound with the formula (CH3)2SO. This colorless liquid is an important polar aprotic solvent that dissolves both polar and nonpolar compounds and is miscible in a wide range of organic solvents as well as water. It has a distinctive property of penetrating the skin very readily, allowing the handler to taste it. Its taste has been described as oyster- or garlic-like.



Dimethyl sulfoxide is a by-product of wood pulping. One of the leading suppliers of DMSO is the Gaylord Chemical Corporation in the USA.




DMSO is an important polar aprotic solvent. It is less toxic than other members of this class such as dimethylformamide, dimethylacetamide, N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, HMPA. Because of its excellent solvating power, DMSO is frequently used as solvent for chemical reactions involving salts. Because DMSO is only weakly acidic, it tolerates relatively strong bases. A practical problem with DMSO as a solvent is its high boiling point, thus its solutions are not typically evaporated. Instead, reactions conducted in DMSO are often diluted with water to precipitate organic products. DMSO is an effective paint stripper, being safer than many of the others such as nitromethane and dichloromethane.

In its deuterated form, i.e. DMSO-d6, it is a useful but expensive solvent for NMR spectroscopy, again due to its ability to dissolve a wide range of analytes and its own simple spectrum. Disadvantages to the use of DMSO-d6 are its high viscosity, which broadens signals, and high boiling point, which interferes with sample recovery from the NMR solvent. Often it is used with deuterochloroform, because the 1:1 mixture has a low viscosity.


The sulfur center in DMSO is nucleophilic toward soft electrophiles and the oxygen is nucleophilic toward hard electrophiles. The methyl groups of DMSO are somewhat acidic in character (pKa=35) due to the stabilization of the resultant carbanion by the S(O)R group.

DMSO reacts with methyl iodide to form a sulfoxonium salt [(CH3)3SO]I, which can be deprotonated with sodium hydride to form the sulfur ylide:

(CH3)2SO + CH3I → [(CH3)3SO]I
[(CH3)3SO]I + NaH → [(CH3)2CH2SO + NaI + H2

In organic synthesis, DMSO is used as an oxidant,[1] such as the Pfitzner-Moffatt oxidation and the Swern oxidation.[2]

Products of ozonolysis, trioxolanes, are quenched with dimethyl sulfide to produce aldehydes and DMSO.


DMSO is used in the PCR reaction to inhibit secondary structures in the DNA template or the DNA primers. It is added to the PCR mix before reacting, where it interferes with the self-complementarity of the DNA, allowing otherwise troublesome reactions to occur.[citation needed] However, use of DMSO in PCR increases the mutation rate.[citation needed]

DMSO also sees use as a cryoprotectant, added to cell media in order to prevent the cells dying as they are frozen.[citation needed] Approximately 10% may be used with a slow-freeze method, and the cells may be frozen at -20°C or stored in liquid nitrogen safely.


In cryobiology DMSO has been used as a cryoprotectant and is still an important constituent of cryoprotectant vitrification mixtures used to preserve organs, tissues, and cell suspensions. Without it, up to 90 percent of frozen cells will become inactive. It is particularly important in the freezing and long-term storage of embryonic stem cells and hematopoietic stem cells, which are often frozen in a mixture of 10% DMSO and 90% fetal calf serum. As part of an autologous bone marrow transplant the DMSO is re-infused along with the patient's own hematopoietic stem cells.

Use of DMSO in medicine dates from around 1963, when a University of Oregon Medical School team, headed by Stanley Jacob, discovered it could penetrate the skin and other membranes without damaging them and could carry other compounds into a biological system.

In a 1978 study at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, researchers concluded that DMSO brought significant relief to the majority of the 213 patients with inflammatory genitourinary disorders that were studied.[3] They recommended DMSO for all inflammatory conditions not caused by infection or tumor in which symptoms were severe or patients failed to respond to conventional therapy.

Some people report an onion- or garlic-like taste after touching DMSO. (Onion and garlic also derive their stinginess from sulfoxides syn-propanethial-S-oxide and allicin.) In the medical field DMSO is predominantly used as a topical analgesic, a vehicle for topical application of pharmaceuticals, as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. It has been examined for the treatment of numerous conditions and ailments. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved DMSO usage only for the palliative treatment of interstitial cystitis. Also, DMSO is commonly used in the veterinary field as a liniment for horses.

Because DMSO increases the rate of absorption of some compounds through organic tissues including skin, it can be used as a drug delivery system.

Dimethyl sulfoxide dissolves a variety of organic substances, including carbohydrates, polymers, peptides, as well as many inorganic salts and gases. Loading levels of 50-60 wt.% are often observed vs 10-20 wt.% with typical solvents. For this reason DMSO plays a role in sample management and High-throughput screening operations in drug design.[4]

History in Medicine

On September 9, 1965, the Wall Street Journal reported the death of an Irish woman after undergoing DMSO treatment for a sprained wrist [5] Clinical research using DMSO halted and did not begin again until the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published findings in favor of DMSO in 1972.[citation needed] In 1978, the FDA approved DMSO for treating interstitial cystis. In 1980, Congress held hearings on claims that the FDA was slow in approving DMSO for other medical uses. In 2007, the FDA granted "fast track" designation on clinical studies of DMSO's use in reducing brain tissue swelling following traumatic brain injury.[citation needed]


MSDS recommends wearing safety glasses because DMSO can cause chronic damage to the eyes.[6] Glove selection is also important when working with DMSO. Thick rubber gloves are recommended, and nitrile gloves, which are very commonly used in chemical laboratories, have been found to dissolve rapidly with exposure to DMSO.[7] Because DMSO easily penetrates the skin, substances dissolved in DMSO may be quickly absorbed. For instance, a solution of sodium cyanide in DMSO can cause cyanide poisoning through skin contact. DMSO by itself has low toxicity.[8] Dimethyl sulfoxide can produce an explosive reaction when exposed to acid chlorides; at a low temperature, this reaction produces the oxidant for Swern oxidation.

Recently, it was found that DMSO waste disposal into sewers can cause environmental odor problems in cities: Waste water bacteria transform DMSO under hypoxic (anoxic) conditions into dimethyl sulfide (DMS) that is slightly toxic and has a strong disagreeable odor, similar to rotten cabbage.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Epstein W.W., Sweat F.W. (1967). "Dimethyl Sulfoxide Oxidations". Chemical Reviews 67: 247-260. doi:10.1021/cr60247a001.
  2. ^ Tidwell, T.T. (1990). "Oxidation of Alcohols by Activated Dimethyl Sulfoxide and Related Reactions: An Update". Synthesis 1990: 857-870. doi:10.1055/s-1990-27036.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Balakin, K. V., Savchuk, N. P., Tetko I. V. (2006). "In silico approaches to prediction of aqueous and DMSO solubility of drug-like compounds: trends, problems and solutions)". Current Medicinal Chemistry 13 (2). doi:10.2174/092986706775197917.
  5. ^ Carley W. DMSO May Have Caused Death of Woman, Makers of 'Wonder' Drug Warn Doctors. Wall Street Journal. September 9, 1965:6.
  6. ^ Safety data for methyl sulfoxide. Oxford University.
  7. ^ Chemical Hygiene Plan. Cornell University (September 99).
  8. ^ Vignes, Robert (August 2000). Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO): A "new" clean, unique, superior solvent, American Chemical Society Annual Meeting
  9. ^ Glindemann, D., Novak, J., Witherspoon, J. (2006). "Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) Waste Residues and Municipal Waste Water Odor by Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS): the North-East WPCP Plant of Philadelphia.". Environmental Science and Technology 40 (1): 202-207. doi:S0013-936X(05)01312-X 10.1021/es051312a S0013-936X(05)01312-X.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dimethyl_sulfoxide". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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