Unique chemical markers for detecting the presence of a compound called nitroxyl in biological systems have been identified by Wake Forest University scientists. This achievement can boost cardiac drug research.
The researchers point out that nitroxyl-a cousin to the blood-vessel relaxing compound nitric oxide-has already been shown to strengthen canine heart beats in previous studies.
However, they add, research into its potential benefits for humans has been slowed by a lack of specific detection methods.
"I think this is a very powerful tool to help in the development of new drugs for congestive heart failure," said S. Bruce King, a professor of chemistry at Wake Forest who leads the team that conducted the research.
The researchers say that nitroxyl can be generated from precursor chemicals under controlled conditions, but studying the molecule's activity in cells is difficult because its constituent elements-nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen-react so readily with other molecules.
King and colleagues used compounds that are not present in normal cell biology to produce a reaction that yields the identifying chemical markers.
While the researchers have established that the human body naturally produces nitric oxide, natural production of nitroxyl is suspected but has not been demonstrated.
King said that the new chemical markers could help answer that question, as well.
A research article on this study has been published online in the American Chemical Society's journal Organic Letters.