Atomium Culture

Atomium Culture

The Permanent Platform of Atomium Culture brings together some of the most authoritative universities, newspapers and businesses in Europe to increase the movement of knowledge: across borders, across sectors and to the public at large.
La plataforma permanente Atomium Culture reúne a las universidades, periódicos y empresas más prestigiosos de Europa para promover el flujo del conocimiento más allá de fronteras, entre sectores y hacia el público en general.

Therapeutic Properties of Nitric Oxide

Por: | 06 de septiembre de 2013

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By Moisés Luzia Pinto, University of Lisbon

Cardiovascular problems are among the more important causes of death in many European countries. One therapeutic strategy for a person that has a cardiac disease or has had a brain stroke is the delivery of small amounts of nitric oxide (NO) to the affected area. This causes dilation of arteries and other blood vessels and prevents blood aggregation by aiding in the removal of blood clots or other restrictions from the affected area, thereby normalizing blood supply.


NO is also used in the prevention of thrombus (blood clot) formation, nerve signal enhancement, wound repair and is the biological signalling agent responsible for the effects of Viagra. In fact, use of NO is an expansive field for drug developers, because of its multipurpose effects. However, like many other therapeutic substances, in high concentrations NO is poisonous and its handling and administration to patients must be done with extreme care. Some medicines that deliver NO are already available, but many are limited by the fact that, following delivery, they become distributed throughout the body, which may result in undesirable side effects and impair the selective delivery of NO. These limitations stress the need for the development of materials that can deliver NO in biologically relevant amounts to the targeted part of the body.

NO Release by Porous Materials
Some solid materials with tiny pores have the ability to store small gaseous molecules in those pores. In the faculties of science at the universities of Lisbon and Aveiro, Portugal, work is being done on the synthesis and applications of porous materials such as zeolites, clays and titanosilicates. The studies are aimed at determining if such materials can be loaded with gaseous NO and, more importantly, if the NO can be released slowly to the surrounding medium. Initially, the research measured the capacity of various materials to store NO. Intriguingly, it was found that the best capacity to store and release NO was not among materials with larger pores (higher porosity). Instead, material with the smallest pores presented the best results, due to the materials very slow release of NO.

Combining data obtained from adsorption, spectroscopic and computer simulation techniques it was possible to identify the characteristics of the porous materials that were responsible for the observed NO adsorption/desorption kinetics. For example, it was determined that the presence of unsaturated titanium atoms—with their ability to form additional chemical bonds—in the material’s framework plays an important role on the binding of NO inside the material’s small pores. On that basis, a novel approach to the designs of NO storage and releasing agents, based on very stable zeolite-type silicates that possess a framework of unsaturated transition-metal centres, has been proposed. Research based on that proposal has produced a titanosilicate (ETS-4) that displays excellent NO adsorption capacity and slow NO release kinetics. Not all of the molecular-level details are yet fully understood, but this type of porous materials has potential as an alternative approach to delivering NO to a specific location.

Possible Applications
Materials such as ETS-4, which can store and subsequently release NO, have the potential to be used in future treatment applications that can deliver NO to specific parts of the body, thereby avoiding the side effects associated with systemic administration (for example, oral-based or respiratory-based treatments) to a patient. Regardless, such materials could find more immediate application if used to treat skin ulcers or other wounds that are failing to heal. In addition, transdermal patches could be used to deliver NO to the blood stream. Similar patches are commercially available, but they are not made from porous solids. The immobile and insoluble nature of porous solids also favours their placement in or on affected tissue areas, thus enabling a controlled and continuous NO release while, at the same time, limiting the production of side effects.

Such treatment approaches may require the localised application of small implants. Pre-clinical development of nanometre-sized porous materials for use as implants requires a multidisciplinary research work ranging from materials’ science to biochemistry and medicine. Research regarding the long-term stability of such products, the toxicology of the materials and the NO amount that can be released under “real” application conditions needs to undertaken before moving forward to clinical trials involving patients. Nonetheless, nanoporous materials will certainly find their way into future treatments that can deliver NO to targeted tissues or areas.


Moisés Luzia Pinto
University of Lisbon

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