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Nitric Oxide Date Written 2007
Author Joe Holmes Date Revised  

Summary: Nitric Oxide is a free radical created from automobile exhaust and factory smoke stacks. New research is finding that can help human health.

Medicine Net: "Nitric oxide: A compound that is toxic but which, paradoxically, plays a number of important roles in the body, including the following: It acts as a vasodilator (blood vessel relaxant). It therefore controls blood flow to tissues. It regulates the binding and release of oxygen to hemoglobin. It thereby controls the supply of oxygen to mitochondria (cell powerhouses that generate energy). It kills parasitic organisms, virus-infected cells, and tumor cells (by inactivating respiratory chain enzymes in their mitochondria). It stimulates the production of new mitochondria. The 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology was awarded to Robert F. Furchgott, Ferid Murad, and Louis J. Ignarro for their discoveries of the role of nitric oxide in cardiovascular physiology." (1)

Association of British Science Writers: "Nitric oxide: From menace to marvel of the decade Summary Research papers continue to flood the scientific journals with insights into the biological activity and potential clinical uses of nitric oxide (NO): a gas controlling a seemingly limitless range of functions in the body. Each revelation adds to nitric oxide's already lengthy resume in controlling the circulation of the blood, and regulating activities of the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, gut, genitals and other organs. The molecule governs blood pressure, through a recently recognised process that contradicts textbook wisdom. It causes penile erections by dilating blood vessels, and controls the action of almost every orifice from swallowing to defecation. The immune system uses nitric oxide in fighting viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, and tumours. Nitric oxide transmits messages between nerve cells and is associated with the processes of learning, memory, sleeping, feeling pain, and, probably, depression. It is a mediator in inflammation and rheumatism...Previously, nitric oxide was regarded as an environmental pollutant and little else: at best a chemically reactive nuisance, at worst a poison. In the exhaust fumes of cars it reacted readily with oxygen to produce smog, increasing the risk of asthma. When discharged into the atmosphere from power station chimneys it contributed to the ecological damage from acid rain. Consequently, a response bordering on disbelief greeted the discovery that cells lining the walls of blood vessels, endothelial cells, intentionally synthesised nitric oxide as a muscle relaxant. The molecule is short-lived, and a constant supply is generated by endothelial cells in response to the sheer stress of the blood flow on the artery wall. The notion that such a noxious little molecule should also hold a key to a healthy body and mind was counter-intuitive, and is still disconcerting to some people." (2)

Wikipedia: "Nitric oxide or Nitrogen monoxide is a chemical compound with chemical formula NO. This gas is an important signaling molecule in the body of mammals including humans and is an extremely important intermediate in the chemical industry. It is also a toxic air pollutant produced by automobile engines and power plants. Nitric oxide (NO) should not be confused with nitrous oxide (N2O), a general anaesthetic, or with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which is another poisonous air pollutant. The nitric oxide molecule is a free radical, which is relevant to understanding its high reactivity. It reacts with the ozone in air to form nitrogen dioxide, signalled by the appearance of the reddish-brown color." (3)

Disease Research Group: "Nitric oxide has now been demonstrated to play a role in a variety of biological processes including neurotransmission, immune defence, the regulation of cell death (apoptosis) and cell motility. Nitric oxide is a short-lived, highly reactive molecule (with a half-life of a few seconds) that is produced from a group of enzymes known as nitric oxide synthases (NOS). Since it is such a small molecule NO is able to diffuse rapidly across cell membranes and, depending on the conditions, is able to diffuse distances of more than several hundred microns. The biological effects of NO are mediated through the reaction of NO with a number of targets such as haem groups, cysteine residues and iron and zinc clusters. Such a diverse range of targets for NO helps explain the wide range of roles that it plays. Due to the importance of NO, abnormal regulation or control of NO synthesis is capable of affecting a number of important biological processes and has been implicated in a variety of diseases." (4)

Mark Stibich, Ph.D.,on "Nitric oxide is a molecule produced in the body that signals the blood vessels to dilate, or expand. It is also involved in transporting oxygen to the tissues. Nitric oxide is produced when the body relaxes, explaining why deep relaxation often causes the hands to feel warm. By fighting stress, you can help your body supply oxygen to your cells while reducing your blood pressure." (5)

Nobel "Nitric oxide protects the heart, stimulates the brain, kills bacteria, etc...NO is a signal molecule of key importance for the cardiovascular system...acts as a signal molecule in the nervous system, as a weapon against infections, as a regulator of blood pressure and as a gatekeeper of blood flow to different organs...resulting in a dilatation of the arteries. In this way, NO controls the blood pressure and its distribution. It also prevents the formation of thrombi...modulate many functions, from behaviour to gastrointestinal motility...When NO is produced in white blood cells (such as macrophages), huge quantities are achieved and become toxic to invading bacteria and parasites...Heart: In atherosclerosis, the endothelium has a reduced capacity to produce NO. However, NO can be furnished by treatment with nitroglycerin...Bacterial infections can lead to sepsis and circulatory shock. In this situation, NO plays a harmful role. White blood cells react to bacterial products by releasing enormous amounts of NO that dilate the blood vessels...Lungs: Intensive care patients can be treated by inhalation of NO gas. This has provided good results and even saved lives. For instance, NO gas has been used to reduce dangerously high blood pressure in the lungs of infants. But the dosage is critical since the gas can be toxic at high concentrations...Cancer: White blood cells use NO not only to kill infectious agents such as bacteria, fungi and parasites, but also to defend the host against tumours. Scientists are currently testing whether NO can be used to stop the growth of tumours since this gas can induce programmed cell death, apoptosis...Impotence: NO can initiate erection of the penis by dilating the blood vessels to the erectile bodies. This knowledge has already led to the development of new drugs against impotence...NO is important for the olfactory sense and our capacity to recognise different scents. It may even be important for our memory." (6)

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