Essay on Biology: Nitric Oxide Therapy

Submitted By miller2012
Words: 957
Pages: 4

Nitric Oxide

My topic that I chose to discuss is Nitric Oxide (NO). It is actually a molecule that our body produces to help its 50 trillion cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the entire body; it is also produced in all human organ systems, including the nasopharynx and the lungs. Nitric oxide is also put out into the air by our car engines and fossil fuel power plants. Although it is a colorless toxic gas, it is used in many positive ways. I want to discuss the use of it in positive ways and how it has and does currently help in some health issues. In December 1999 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of inhaled NO as a pulmonary vasodilator for the treatment of hypoxic respiratory failure (HRF) in full- and near-term infants (greater than 34 weeks gestation). HRF is a condition that affects an estimated 30,000 full- and near-term infants per year. The heart and lung systems of patients diagnosed with HRF are not capable of transporting adequate oxygen to the tissues, creating a condition sometimes referred to as “blue baby syndrome.” Conventional treatment for hypoxic respiratory failure in infants traditionally consists of high frequency mechanical ventilation (the use of smaller volumes of oxygen at more rapid rates (usually over 50 breaths per minute), and can progress to the need to initiate extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (wherein deoxygenated blood is removed, warmed and passed through an oxygenator, then returned to the patient). These treatments carry significant morbidity and mortality and have limited success rates. Neonatologists and cardiac surgeons expect nitric oxide (which allows more oxygen to be transported through the lungs to the blood), when used with ventilator support and other drugs, to reduce the need for the highly invasive procedure currently used in treating infants with HRF. It can actually be prescribed to you in a pill form by your doctor. In the presence of oxygen, NO is broken down to form nitrogen dioxide (NO2). In the blood NO interacts with hemoglobin. The byproduct of this reaction produces increased levels of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin will not carry oxygen, and therefore, its level must be closely monitored during NO therapy. Although inhaled nitric oxide is currently only approved for use in the treatment of HRF, researchers continue to study the possible effects of NO on a wide variety of illnesses such as intestinal ischemia, clotting disorders, and sickle cell anemia where the relaxation of blood vessels is believed to hold some benefit. Due to nitric oxide’s toxicity, the current approved use of the gas requires its delivery in very small quantities (less than 100 parts per million) into a gas stream provided by a ventilator, which in turn delivers the gaseous mixture to the patient’s lungs. Specialists find that the process of adding NO to a gas stream is a more difficult task than the description implies. The hazards of using NO include its inadvertent combination with oxygen, forming deadly nitrogen dioxide. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration have set the eight-hour time-weighted average exposure limits of nitrogen dioxide at five ppm (in contrast with the recommendation of 25 ppm for NO. Another hazard involves the hydration of nitrogen dioxide with moisture in the respiratory tract, forming lung-destroying nitric acid. In this reaction, the water that is present in respiratory gases and on the inner surface of the respiratory tract combines with nitrogen dioxide to produce this corrosive acid. In my research I was really quit shocked at how the medical use of NO is used in so many different ways for patients. I have found that it tends to