Nitric Oxide Overview

Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring molecule that was first identified in the late 18th century. NO should not be confused with nitrous oxide, a common anesthetic that is otherwise known as “laughing gas.” NO’s importance in biological processes began to emerge only in the late 1980s. Today, it is widely recognized as an important biological regulator and a fundamental molecule in the fields of pulmonary medicine, cardiology, neuroscience, physiology and immunology. In 1998, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for discoveries concerning NO as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system.

NO is a cellular signaling molecule that is naturally produced by the body and has been shown to be a potent vasodilator. Once inhaled into the lungs, NO causes blood vessels to relax and widen, resulting in a reduction in the pressure and a concomitant increase in blood flow. Increasing the blood flow through the lungs allows red blood cells to capture more oxygen, leading to an increase in oxygen saturation of the blood that is subsequently delivered to all of the tissues in the body. Numerous academic-sponsored clinical trials have been conducted to study the use of inhaled NO for a variety of clinical disorders.