Nitric Oxide History
Since three scientists won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for
discovering nitric oxide's role in cell signaling, nitric oxide has
become one of the most researched molecules and medical topics in recent
history. However, our understanding of this tiny "miracle molecule" has
grown from humble beginnings.
First studied in 1772 by Joseph Priestly, who called it "nitrous
air," nitric oxide was first discovered as a colorless, toxic gas.
Unfortunately, the classification of toxid gas and air pollutant
continued to be the only labels nitric oxide was afforded until 1987,
when it was shown to actually be produced naturally in the body.
Noni from the Islands:
Scientists have only recently discovered the link between nitric
oxide and the noni plant (Morinda citrifolia). Noni originally came from
Polynesia, Micronesia and the Hawaiian islands. The Polynesian people
have been using noni for thousands of years as a cure-all plant.
During the 1990's, purchase and distribution of noni started to grow
exponentially around the world. Scientists started to notice a
correlation between the patients using the noni plant and having nitric
oxide in the body.
From 1999 to 2000, Dr. Thomas Burke and other researches at
Integrated Systems Physiology conducted research, which found that noni
fruit juice created nitric oxide in the body. We now know extracts from
the entire noni plant generate additional nitric oxide in the body,
providing noni with its numerous healing powers.
The Nitroglycerin Era:
Alfred Nobel, who left one of the world's most renowned legacies by
establishing the Nobel Peace Prizes, actually made his fortune from the
manufacture and selling of nitroglycerin. As early as 1867, Nobel was
packaging one of the world's most explosive substances in a safer, more
stable form he called dynamite.
Ironically, by the end of Nobel's life, nitroglycerine was also known
to have positive effects for those suffering from heart conditions.
Nobel, himself, was ordered by a doctor to take a dose of nitroglycerin
(an order he refused) for some heart problems. It was nearly 100 years
later before it was discovered that nitroglycerin's positive effects are
reliant on its release of nitric oxide. Because of its benefits,
nitroglycerin is still prescribed by doctors today.
The Molecule of Life:
By the early 1980's, scientists had conclusively proven that nitric
oxide occurred naturally within the human body. By 1987, nitric oxide's
role in regulation blood pressure and relieving heart conditions was
well-established. Two years later, research revealed that nitric oxide
is used by macrophages to kill tumor cells and bacteria.
In 1992, nitric oxide was voted "Molecule of the Year" by Science
magazine. The importance of nitric oxide became front page news in 1998
when Louis J. Ignerro, Robert F. Furchgott and Ferid Murad were awarded
the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. These scientists identified
nitric oxide as a signaling molecule, opening up a new way of treatment
for millions of patients.
Now, in 2006, more than 70,000 scientific papers have been published
on nitric oxide and its seemingly endless role in health and physiology.