Dimethylaminoethanol, also known as DMAE or dimethylethanolamine, is an organic compound. This compound also goes by the names of N,N-dimethyl-2-aminoethanol, beta-dimethylaminoethyl alcohol, beta-hydroxyethyldimethylamine and Deanol. It is a liquid with a color that ranges from clear to pale yellow.
Dimethylaminoethanol is used as a curing agent for polyurethanes and epoxy resins. It is used to the synthesis of dyestuffs, textile auxiliaries, pharmaceuticals, emulsifiers, and corrosion inhibitors. Also it is an additive to paint removers, boiler water, and amino resins.
Dimethylaminoethanol is related to choline and is a biochemical precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and found naturally in fishes like sardines and anchovies. It is reported to have nootropic effects, although research on this chemical has found both positive and negative potential results.
It is believed that dimethylaminoethanol is methylated to produce choline in the brain. It is known that dimethylaminoethanol is processed by the liver into choline; however, the choline molecule is charged and cannot pass the blood-brain barrier.
Short term studies have shown an increase in vigilance and alertness, with a positive influence on mood. Long term studies are equivocal. Some showed dimethylaminoethanol to increase the lifespan of animals in which it was tested, while others indicate a possible reduction in the average life span of quail. With the uncertainty of whether this could be extrapolated to humans, dimethylaminoethanol supplementation is not generally recommended. It is possible that dose is a major determining factor in the overall effects of dimethylaminoethanol - a high dose could produce the opposite effects than sought and contribute to life-shortening.
A recent study indicates that synthetic DMAE applied topically may alter the appearance of skin cells. "From our point of view the cells are altered. They stop dividing, they stop secreting, and after 24 hours a certain proportion of them die," said Dr. Francois Marceau of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Quebec.
Marceau, a cell biologist, said he is reluctant to recommend that these products not be used. However, the findings make it clear that more research is needed on how these and similar products work. "I don't want to scare people," he added. "The risk is probably not very big, but in my opinion it hasn't been measured accurately." .
- N. R. Zahniser, D. Chou, I. Hanin. "Is 2-dimethylaminoethanol (deanol) indeed a precursor of brain acetylcholine? A gas chromatographic evaluation", Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 200(3):545–559, 1977.
- W. Dimpfel, W. Wedekind, I. Keplinger, "Efficacy of dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) containing vitamin-mineral drug combination on EEG patterns in the presence of different emotional states", European Journal Medical Research 8(5):183-191, 2003.
- A. Cherkin, M.J. Exkardt, "Effects of dimethylaminoethanol upon life-span and behavior of aged Japanese quail", Journal of Gerontology 32(1):38-45, 1977.
- G. Morissette, L. Germain, F. Marceau, "The antiwrinkle effect of topical concentrated 2-dimethylaminoethanol involves a vacuolar cytopathology", British Journal of Dermatology 156(3) pp.433-439, 2007.
- Anne Harding, ""Instant face lift" chemical DMAE damages skin cells", Reuters Health Wed Apr 18, 2007 7:50PM EDT
- Jean-François Huppé, "Anti-wrinkle compound causes pathological reaction in skin cells", Eureka Alert!, 11-Apr-2007
- Earliest research
- As a treatment for tardive dyskinesia
- Haug BA, Holzgraefe M. "Orofacial and respiratory tardive dyskinesia: potential side effects of 2-dimethylaminoethanol (deanol)?" European Neurology 31(6):423–425, 1991. 
- As an unsuccessful treatment for Alzheimer's disease
- Fisman M, Mersky H, Helmes E. "Double-blind trial of 2-dimethylaminoethanol in Alzheimer's disease." American Journal of Psychiatry 138(7):970–972, 1981.