Tag Archives: Nitric oxide

New microneedle biosensor detects nitric oxide during cancer diagnosis

"Cancer - Early Diagnosis Would Save 50,0...
“Cancer – Early Diagnosis Would Save 50,000 Lives Every Year” – NARA – 514027 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nitric oxide NO) plays a variety of complex roles in the genesis, growth and death of cancer cells/tumors. As it does in so many physiological processes, it exhibits both pro- and anti-tumor activities, and researchers are still discussing the implications of these data on the use of NO as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of cancer.

A recent study takes advantage of NO activity to make diagnosing cancer more certain. A novel microneedle biosensor electrically detects NO emissions from cancer tissues in real-time for in situ cancer diagnosis during endomicroscopy. Researchers showed that using this as a dual diagnostic system yields high resolution imaging and provides a new way to easily, quickly and accurately diagnose cancers.

Nitric oxide once again takes a starring role in science’s efforts to understand how the human body works.

Blueberries lower BP and raise nitric oxide levels

English: A pack of blueberries from a organic ...
English: A pack of blueberries from a organic farm co-op program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News about blueberries. A small study—48 post-menopausal women who were pre- or stage 1 hypertensive—showed that participants who took 22 grams (that’s .77 of an ounce for those of us who are gram-challenged) of freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to one cup of the fresh fruit) every day for a month lowered their blood pressure and limbered up their arteries compared to those who took a placebo. And they lost 10 pounds!

No. Just kidding on that last one.

But they did lower their systolic (top number) blood pressure by 5% and their diastolic (bottom number) BP by 6%, raised their nitric oxide (NO) levels by a whopping 68.5% and decreased arterial stiffness by 6.5%, as reported in a paper by Sarah A. Johnson and several other exercise and nutrition professors. Johnson is assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging (CAENRA) and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University.

Previous studies had shown impressive benefits for blueberries, but most involved consuming huge quantities (13 cups per day in one study).

My calculations say you’d have to spend between $58.50 and $78 a month for the cup-a-day dose – and none of that would be covered by insurance.

The cost of blood pressure medication (angiotensin receptor blocker ARB) varies wildly, depending on the type prescribed and the place you buy it. One site gives ARB prices ranging from a discounted $9 to a top price of $183 for a 30-day supply.

A caveat: The study was paid for by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. The Council is industry-funded and is in the business of marketing blueberries. But at least the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service monitors their operations.

Another study done at University of California Davis states that consuming freeze-dried blueberry powder in smoothies every day can increase insulin sensitivity—and is thus very good for anyone at risk of developing type II diabetes, a risk that increases for Baby Boomers as they age. Note: Participants had to cut back 500 calories on other foods to accommodate the calories in the two smoothies each day.

So it looks like freeze-dried blueberry powder is a nutritionally equivalent substitute for the fresh fruit at a similar price—plus it keeps longer and is easier to store.And while the fruit will never replace your blood pressure meds, it still might be a worthwhile investment to get some o’ that blueberry powder.


All things nitric oxide – research report released

Nitric Oxide Synthase
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.



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New nitric oxide component (HNO) promises new CV help

English: A schematic showing the (laboratory) ...
English: A schematic showing the (laboratory) production of nitric oxide. The setup was made based on an image of the 1949 Popular Mechanics article by Kenneth M. Swezey (titled: The gas that makes you laugh). Images from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Rocket000/SVGs/Chemistry were used to make this image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The substance nitric oxide (NO), one of my favorite topics, is now known to be break-downable into components, one of which has one less electron. It’s known as NO(-) or HNO or nitroxyl, and researchers are finding some exciting new applications for it.

One novel use for nitroxyl is as part of a nanoparticle coating for implanted medical devices that otherwise might trigger dangerous blood clots. The coating is made up of sheets of graphene integrated with two components—haemin and glucose oxidase. “Both work synergistically to catalyze the production of nitroxyl, which can be used inside the blood like nitric oxide, although it contains one less electron. Nitroxyl has been reported as being analogous to nitric oxide in its clot-preventing capability.”

The other use for nitroxyl (HNO) involves its use in treating heart failure. Researchers normally write in very reserved terms about their discoveries, but the author of the passage below seems pretty excited about  the implications of the research. Basically it’s saying that HNO donors can do things that regular NO donors cannot do and may be dramatically more useful in treating cardiovascular disease.

Thus, unlike NO*, HNO can target cardiac sarcoplasmic ryanodine receptors to increase myocardial contractility, can interact directly with thiols and is resistant to both scavenging by superoxide (*O2-) and tolerance development. HNO donors are protective in the setting of heart failure in which NO donors have minimal impact.

It’s cool to see this showing three of my favorite topics coming together: nitric oxide, nanotechnology and heart failure. But then, when all is said and done someday, everything in bioscience will undoubtedly coalesce in one way or another.

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Sunshine facilitates nitric oxide flow – and lowers blood pressure

Digitales Blutdruckmessgerät / Digital Blood P...
Digitales Blutdruckmessgerät / Digital Blood Pressure Monitor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent experiment showed that exposing people to UV rays can measurably reduce their blood pressure. The conjecture is that the rays are promoting the transfer of nitric oxide via the skin into the circulation, thus lowering blood pressure along with risk of stroke and heart attack.

Dermatologists were quick to say this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still avoid sun exposure for fear of skin cancer. However, docs who did the experiment point out that high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack kill 80 times more people than skin cancer.

Hmm. Lower blood pressure, more relaxed = benefits of sunshine. Does this surprise anyone? How many millennia have human beings been seeking out sunny locales in which to spend their vacations?

In addition, no change was detected in the subjects’ vitamin D levels, when it’s long been a scientific claim that sunshine exposure helps raise vitamin D absorption.

Clearly, this is a small study, but it’s a good reminder that science sometimes needs to be taken with a healthy dose of common sense.

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Nitric oxide is key to deciphering blood flow

Our circulatory system creates NO to regulate itself. High cholesterol can impede that process.

Biomedical engineers at Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems are busy constructing a mathematical model to explain how blood vessels regulate the flow of blood. Specifically they’re looking at the ways nitric oxide (NO) is produced by cells in our circulatory system, where it dilates blood vessels and thus controls blood pressure and flow. NO also helps the immune system respond to injuries and infections.

The National Institutes of Health’s Heart, Lung and Blood group is funding this research to the tune of $3.3 million, since “defects in nitric oxide in blood and tissues can lead to many diseases,” including the biggie: heart disease. The team has  already discovered new ways in which NO is produced. Now they’ll be using a flow chamber to identify location and time data that will make their model even more useful to scientists.

The coolest thing about this is that the model will be open-source – meaning anyone anywhere in the world who has the skills and wants to try to improve it can do so.

Another step forward in identifying nature’s secrets of healing.


Lower your blood pressure with beet juice – or kale, or spinach, or…

Beet juice
Beet juice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know that green vegetables – and really any vegetable with deep coloring such as carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, etc. – are especially good for us. But usually we know this only in the vaguest way. So it’s nice to get simple, specific proofs of why this is so. For example this recent study, conducted with only a small sampling of people, gives definitive evidence that drinking a glass of beet juice will lower your blood pressure.

Beets and all green, leafy vegetables are full of nitrates, which our bodies eventually turn into nitric oxide – the stuff that relaxes our blood vessels and helps our blood flow better, thus lowering blood pressure. Apparently beet juice is available on most grocery shelves in the U.K. where the study was done, but here in the U.S. we might need to hit the health food store to find it.

The study found that in men with hypertension, the beet juice lowered their blood pressure significantly (up to 5 points) within about 3 hours of drinking. Other studies have found even greater reductions (up to 10 points). The sample of people in this study was too small to be definitive for women (they didn’t control for age and medications). But it’s reasonable to think it works the same way for females. And works the same with other green, leafy vegetables.

The most fascinating part, reported on another source, says that if your blood pressure is already okay, the same dose of beet juice will lower it just a little bit. Isn’t that interesting? As if the beet root has an internal intelligence that knows what the right level is and gauges how much help your blood pressure needs. What a magical idea, that plants might have such sensitivities.

Of course, the URL of this second source (www.willitsnews.com/marijuananews/…) could indicate the authors might be more inclined to look for the magical side of the story.

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Surprise partners: Nitric oxide and H2S…What else don’t we know?

Blood_Vessels (Photo credit: shoebappa)

The trouble with some of the miracles of science is that we discover some wonderful substance and start manipulating it in the belief we know what we’re doing, only to find out at some later date that the substance in question—in this case, nitric oxide—does not, in fact, perform its magic all by itself.

A recent study reports that hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which was thought to perform on its own certain functions similar to those of nitric oxide (NO), is actually a partner with NO in such actions as growing new blood vessels and relaxing existing ones. The authors of the study were Greek and American scientists, and the report is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in th...
Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S. HT = herbicide tolerance. BT = insect resistance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The only conclusion I can reach is that these researchers were surprised by this discovery. Which makes me wonder. How can we use nanotechnology for a myriad of purposes and gaily go about genetically modifying foods and so on without having done enough safety studies? What surprise “partnerships” might we be missing/ignoring? And if we’re missing something, anything, what long-term effects will, for example, the genetically modified foods have on the nutrition—and therefore growth and health—of the animals and humans consuming them?

I served recently on a small panel of ordinary citizens being questioned by food industry representatives. The topic was attitudes about food safety and food labeling. What kind of labels did we think would make us feel confident about a food? I ask you: if you read “This is really good for you!” on a package, how much do you believe that? How often do you trust that “free range” really means the chickens didn’t spend most of their lives crammed together on top of each other in cages? And does “organic” broccoli mean they used compost from the kitchen in the dirt but still sprayed the hell out of it with pesticides? The truth is often a crapshoot

Some panelists thought they’d trust a source of foods–like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods–more than they’d trust the marketing language of the manufacturer. The assumption being that these large, consumer-friendly stores that talk big about wholesome and healthy have actually done some serious investigating before they decided to carry a certain brand.

When it comes to nanotech in medicine, I’m sure that if a medicine could be nano-power-injected in me that would save my life—even for a while—I’d say hurry up and shoot, man. But it’s a different story when we talk about using it to fight cancer in a small child where we don’t know what the long-term consequences may be of nanoparticles injected into the body.

No Luddites here. Thank God for every exciting step forward in science—and equal gratitude for those who urge balance and caution.

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Marijuana-type receptors and nitric oxide for spinal cord injuries?

Day 46 - West Midlands Police - Cannabis Drugs...
Day 46 - West Midlands Police - Cannabis Drugs Raid (Photo credit: West Midlands Police)

Some of the oldest medicinal herbs in the world are still being found effective for some treatments for human afflictions. A study in Switzerland, written up  in the April 11, 2012 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, says a marijuana-like substance works well with nitric oxide to both suppress inhibitors and stimulate activity of motor neurons in the spinal cord.

I’m tempted to conclude that this means something like having these endocannabinoids (a marijuana-like substance) inserted into the body’s neural networks—the authors don’t discuss whether smoking marijuana might produce the same effect—creates a partnership with nitric oxide that promotes nerve activity and could potentially lead to some degree of movement in at least some patients with spinal cord injuries.

But since the abstract doesn’t at any point translate its medical-speak into a recognizable potential benefit to human beings, I’m only guessing. It’s an exciting prospect even if I’ve got it only partially right.

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Inhaled nitric oxide can help prevent stroke damage

PET image shows blood flow in the brain. Texts...
Blood flow in the brain - Image via Wikipedia

Stroke is the #3 killer in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. Plus, the death of brain cells as a result of a stroke can induce disability at one level or another across a critical range of human functions—speech, movement, thought processing, writing, etc.

Nitric oxide (NO) doesn’t normally affect blood flow in the brain. But now a few studies have shown a stroke can change that. Inhaling nitric oxide with an oxygen/air mix actually increases blood flow into areas of the brain where arterial blood was blocked during the stroke. They’ve confirmed this phenomenon in two studies in mice and one with large animals.

Another accomplishment for NO, this miraculous substance we produce in our bodies. Read a few more posts about  nitric oxide here.

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