Skip to Content

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment to Save Soldiers’ Lives

Nanoparticles deliver biologically active drugs in ways that affect tissues as never before.
February 22, 2011

Losing half your blood volume is a tough thing to survive, even if you’re a hamster in a controlled laboratory study. It’s very bad if you’re a soldier on the battlefield, hours away from an emergency room or trauma center.

NO-containing nanoparticles

Massive blood loss can can lead to cardiac collapse and death. Coping with this complication normally requires an infusion of blood – i.e., a trauma center – but drugs that can prevent it are possible, at least in theory. One of them, nitric oxide (NO) can relax blood vessels and help avert hemorrhagic shock. The problem is that NO can cross cell membranes and dissipates rapidly.

The solution may be nanoparticles: they can contain the gas and release it gradually, as they dissovle in the body. Two years ago these particles were used in a study of a treatment for erectile dysfunction, where the ability of NO to increase blood flow showed promise:

Joel Friedman and his team created particles smaller than a virus that have a little payload of a drug—it could be anything researchers care to add—locked inside. The cage-like particles are made through a complicated process that combines a particular plastic and a type of sugar first discovered in crab shells. The drug to be delivered is then stuffed inside the nanoparticle cage like the meat in a ravioli.

In a release accompanying the publication of the most recent paper on these nanoparticles, lead author Joel Friedman said that “Animals given the nanoparticles exhibited better cardiac stability, stronger blood flow to tissues and other measures of hemorrhagic shock recovery compared to controls receiving saline solution minus the nanoparticles.”

Human trials are years away, if they ever occur, but if research by other scientists bears out the ability of nanoparticles to deliver the molecule of the year in a way that is truly unique, it could mean a whole new class of drugs.

Follow Mims on Twitter or contact him via email.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

mouse engineered to grow human hair
mouse engineered to grow human hair

Going bald? Lab-grown hair cells could be on the way

These biotech companies are reprogramming cells to treat baldness, but it’s still early days.

tonga eruption
tonga eruption

Tonga’s volcano blast cut it off from the world. Here’s what it will take to get it reconnected.

The world is anxiously awaiting news from the island—but on top of the physical destruction, the eruption has disconnected it from the internet.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

seeing is believing concept
seeing is believing concept

Our brains exist in a state of “controlled hallucination”

Three new books lay bare the weirdness of how our brains process the world around us.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.