Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

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.

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today
More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.