Nitric Oxide Synthase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you’ve read even a few of the posts on BioMedNews.org, you probably know I love writing about research that involves nitric oxide (NO). I was introduced to the power of NO about ten years ago when I wrote a white paper on asthma research for the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, that project was the reason I started this blog – I got hooked on bioscience.
Just found out that Research and Markets, a global organization dedicated to examining the state of research, the condition of markets, and the companies working to develop various therapies, has recently released a comprehensive report about the current global state of research on nitric oxide (NO) and a related enzyme called nitric oxide synthase (NOS).
The description of this report is the simplest explanation I’ve seen of the dual nature of NO – how it produces great good in the human body, and yet can cause health problems in the same areas where it’s done good. A strange and wonderful molecule to learn about.
Image by pixieclipx via Flickr
Dogs can smell seizures, low blood sugar and heart attacks, and doctors are working to see if they can be trained to detect other diseases such as cancer. A recent study suggests we humans may soon begin to emulate their powerful scenting abilities—with technology, of course.
New hope for early diagnosis comes from an electronic nose, a version of which is already in use in the food, wine and perfume industries. It generates a pattern, or “smell print”, in response to a given odor, then researchers analyze and compare that pattern with stored patterns. They’ve developed one that can tell from a person’s exhaled breath if that person has pneumonia. Now they’re studying the e-nose in the hope they can one day make it detect ashtma and some versions of lung cancer. A test of an e-nose has already been done to detect malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive form of lung cancer.
Image by I X Key via Flickr
So that’s how they can keep producing winning smells in food, wine and perfume! And here I thought it was magic—the way I used to think that music composition was the most wonderfully mysterious art of all, because I had no idea how they did it until I studied music. I remember the article in Time magazine a few decades ago that contained a dozen gorgeous abstract paintings—and explained that they’d been generated by numerical equations plugged into a computer. It blew my mind to realize that math and art were not only not radically different but were merely two different ways of looking at the same thing.
Even as we begin to discover more and more ways to heal the human body using the gentle tools of the universe such as stem cells, rather than violating the body with cutting, assaulting tools such as surgery and chemotherapy, we can take comfort, too, in the idea that many of the mysteries of the earth might one day be translatable to and from mathematical equations.