Expansion on the Recent Discoveries Concerning Nitric Oxide

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 1996

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Expansion on the Recent Discoveries Concerning Nitric Oxide

as presented by Dr. Jack R. Lancaster

Nitric Oxide, or NO, its chemical representation, was until recently not considered to be of any benefit to the life processes of animals, much less human beings. However, studies have proven that this simple compound had an abundance of uses in the body, ranging from the nervous system to the reproductive system. Its many uses are still being explored, and it is hoped that it can play an active role in the cures for certain types of cancers and tumors that form in the brain and other parts of the body.

Nitric Oxide is not to be confused with nitrous oxide, the latter of which is commonly known as laughing gas. Nitric oxide has one more electron than the anesthetic. NO is not soluble in water. It is a clear gas. When NO is exposed to air, it mixes with oxygen, yielding nitrogen IV dioxide, a brown gas which is soluble in water.

These are just a few of the chemical properties of nitric oxide.

With the total life expectancy of nitric oxide being from six to ten seconds, it is not surprising that it has not been until recently that it was discovered in the body. The compound is quickly converted into nitrates and nitrites by oxygen and water. Yet even its short-lived life, it has found many functions within the body. Nitric oxide enables white blood cells to kill tumor cells and bacteria, and it allows neurotransmitters to dilate blood vessels. It also serves as a messenger for neurons, like a neurotransmitter. The compound is also accountable for penile erections. Further experiments may lead to its use in memory research and for the treatment of certain neurodegenerative disorders.

One of the most...