Nitroglycerin: How An Explosive Became a Cardiac Drug

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Let's have a blast and review how this explosive became a cardiac drug. CardioTwitter TwitteRx theheartorg

Let's have a blast and review how this explosive became a cardiac drug.

Glyceryl trinitrate, or NTG, first entered the scene in the 1840s, when an Italian chemist, Ascanio Sobrero, created it by adding nitric acid and sulfuric acid to glycerol. The instability of this oily liquid is the reason it was often the weapon of choice for classic cartoon villains that you may remember fondly from childhood.

Although Sobrero would live until 1888, by which time the world of medicine was at least dabbling with NTG as a cardiac drug, the drug would not begin flourishing as a pharmaceutical until the early 1900s. This medical dabbling began with an action that Sobrero himself took prior discovering NTG's explosive property. He put a bit of it on his tongue, just to have a taste.

Keep in mind that this was the mid-19th century, when it was common for chemists to use their mouths as instruments the way that we might use a pH meter, or a photospectrometer. This was an era in which people sniffed nitrous oxide, ether, and chloroform for entertainment — leading to serendipitous medical discoveries — and that's what happened with NTG..


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