JAN 20, 2018 9:34 AM PST

Nitric Oxide Treats Heart Attack, Asthma, and Impotence

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

One small molecule called nitric oxide (NO) plays so many different roles in the cell, valuable and destructive. Scientists from Case Western Reserve University are uncovering how NO can perform so many functions, with the hope of using their knowledge to treat a variety of conditions like heart attack, asthma, and impotence.

Nitric oxide (green) signaling in various layers of a blood vessel. Credit: PLOS ONE

First, researchers investigated a chain reaction-like process called S-nitrosylation where enzymes called NO synthases produce NO, but the story doesn’t end there. They found that NOs are transformed into “stopgap nitric oxides” (SNOs) via SNO synthases. SNOs are responsible for promoting NO’s diverse capabilities by influencing the activity of various proteins, and NO can be harmful or helpful based on how much of it there is.

"Nitric oxide has been implicated in virtually all cellular functions, and too much or too little is widely implicated in disease, including Alzheimer's, heart failure, cancer, asthma and infection," explained lead scientist Jonathan Stamler, MD.

In addition to identifying the role of SNO and SNO synthases, Stamler and his team found a third class of enzymes that transports SNOs to interact with more proteins. There are likely hundreds of different SNO synthases, hundreds of different kinds of SNOs, and hundreds of different ways for these enzymes to to change cell function.

“Each of these enzymes could potentially be targeted specifically in disease," Stamler said.

For cases in which a particular SNO negatively affects a protein’s function, a unique drug would be needed to target that SNO and leave other, potentially beneficial SNOs unharmed. It would be dangerous to blindly inhibit NO production because of the molecule’s wide reach into a plethora of cell processes. Stamler says this finding “changes perspective in the field.”

“Our findings suggest that NO itself is just the first step,” Stamler explained. “It's all in what the cell does with NO and which SNO it's converted into.”

In the near future, Stamler and his team plan on identifying individual SNO synthases in different tissues and in the context of different diseases for the purpose of therapeutic drug development.

In the context of impotence, NO has been found to be the primary component responsible for the relaxation of penile smooth muscle. For asthma, an increase in exhaled NO has been shown to accompany inflammation and other signs of asthma. For heart attack, researchers have found that NO promotes the heart’s ability to pump blood to the body.

The present study was published in the journal Molecular Cell.

Sources: Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, Heart, Case Western Reserve University

About the Author
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
FEB 22, 2022
Cardiology
Beta-blockers as a Potential Treatment for COVID-19
FEB 22, 2022
Beta-blockers as a Potential Treatment for COVID-19
Beta-blockers are usually used to treat heart conditions and blood pressure, but they may also be useful for COVID-19.
MAR 10, 2022
Cancer
Exercise Reduces Anxiety in Prostate Cancer Patients
MAR 10, 2022
Exercise Reduces Anxiety in Prostate Cancer Patients
The American Cancer Society estimates that one in eight men will face a prostate cancer diagnosis. While prost ...
APR 10, 2022
Plants & Animals
Turmeric Helps Regenerate Blood Vessels and Tissue
APR 10, 2022
Turmeric Helps Regenerate Blood Vessels and Tissue
Turmeric is a common Indian spice used in a wide variety of dishes, and is derived from the root of a turmeric plant. It ...
APR 28, 2022
Neuroscience
Childhood Abuse Increases Risk for High Cholesterol and Diabetes
APR 28, 2022
Childhood Abuse Increases Risk for High Cholesterol and Diabetes
Men and women who experience abuse during childhood are more likely to develop high cholesterol as adults. The correspon ...
JUN 07, 2022
Cardiology
Overtraining Negatively Impacts Mood and Heart Rate Variability
JUN 07, 2022
Overtraining Negatively Impacts Mood and Heart Rate Variability
Athletes tend to have a worse mood and lower heart rate variability the day after intense training.
AUG 02, 2022
Cardiology
Exercising 150-600 Minutes Per Week Leads to Lowest Death Risk
AUG 02, 2022
Exercising 150-600 Minutes Per Week Leads to Lowest Death Risk
People who exercise for two to four times the recommended amount per week see major reductions in all-cause mortality.
Loading Comments...