What you need to know about NO

Nitric oxide, neurotransmission, MaRS!

Nitric oxide (NO), known commonly as a ozone-depleting pollutant, is produced naturally in the human body and fulfills a variety of physiologic functions including acting as a neurotransmitter, vasodilator and anti-infective.  NO has been implicated in a variety of diseases and conditions including pain, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, stroke and inflammatory disease.

MaRS and NeurAxon Inc. are presenting an international symposium on this exciting field with 20 world-leading researchers, including 1998 Nobel Laureate Dr. Ferid Murad of the University of Texas, at MaRS on May 27-28, 2010. Why is the next Future of Medicine™ conference, “International Symposium on Nitric Oxide and Other Gaseous Neurotransmitters” important?

In 1998, Robert Furchgott (SUNY), Louis Ignarro (UCLA) and Ferid Murad (UT Houston) shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their discoveries relating to the role of NO as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. NO is able to regulate blood pressure and control blood flow to various organs.  Readers may be interested to know that the popular ED drug Viagra(r) works via an NO-related mechanism.

In the nervous system, NO is unlike typical neurotransmitters in that it is synthesized and released only when needed – it is not stored for future use.  Various tissue forms of the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (NOS) control the generation of NO and this is where the majority of the R&D activity is focused.

Being a small molecule, NO rapidly diffuses across cell membranes without active receptor uptake.  These properties combined with rapid decay help make NO one of the most fastest acting signaling molecules across cell boundaries.  Consequently, any imbalance in NO production can quickly affect cell and tissue behaviour.

Our conference will bring the leading pharmaceutical and academic experts in the NO field to Toronto.  Other emerging gaseous neurotransmitters such as CO and HS will also be discussed.

If you need to NO, MaRS is the place!