From Toxins to Therapies

Is nitric oxide the next tool for pain management?

Rui Wang, vice president of research at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

For years, nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide got a bad rap. Scientists considered them to be toxins, little more— that is, until Robert Furchgott, Louis Ignarro and Ferid Murad discovered that NO was both endogenous and a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system, earning them the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Since then, scientists have found that H2S and CO, too, act as signaling molecules—and the entire group may have therapeutic potential in conditions as diverse as heart failure, pain, and Alzheimer’s disease.

“As soon as the biological importance of H2S became recognized, it became accepted that this group of molecules in our body are critical. We cannot live without them,” says Rui Wang, vice president...

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