Nitroglycerin demystified

For over a century no one really know how or why nitroglycerin worked for patients experiencing angina attacks (pain associated with reduced blood flow to the heart). Now they’ve identified an enzyme that breaks it down (working in a compartment inside each cell) and releases a nitric-oxide related molecule–which helps relax blood vessels. Duke University researchers discovered that the enzyme (mALDH) works only in the mitochondria (that word really brings back school biology lessons)–the “powerhouse” of the cells–to help the process of manufacturing actual nitric oxide.

The research suggests that current ways of using nitroglycerin are not the most beneficial–and may even be harmful to some heart patients. The upshot is that scientists will now be able to better figure out how to use it more effectively.

Good news for the driving horde of baby boomers thundering up on their potential-heart-problem years.