Within the world of biohacking, it’s common for impassioned practitioners to become evangelists for particular technologies, modalities or other approaches to wellness and vitality. For Dr. Nathan S. Bryan, one of the speakers at the Miami Biohacking Congress October 22-23, a potential, powerful way to improve health outcomes resides in nitric oxide (NO). According to his research, NO can improve health outcomes for cardiovascular health, diabetic wounds, and other ailments.
A molecule that’s produced throughout the human body, part of NO’s power stems from its ability to help blood vessels dilate. NO also plays a signaling function for the immune system, helping cells to communicate with each other and respond to threats.
The central role of NO for health has long been known to scientists. In 1992, Science magazine—the bible of the field, as it were—named NO its Molecule of the Year. Praising its “versatility and importance,” the magazine hailed the mighty molecule for its myriad of benefits. In addition to its impact on blood pressure and immune response, wrote then-editor, Daniel E. Kohsland Jr., it’s also “a major biochemical mediator of [sexual dysfunction], and is probably a major biochemical component of long-term memory.” And that was just the beginning.
In Bryan’s own career as a biochemist, professor and entrepreneur, that early promise was the foundation for companies he created, each of which leverage NO in several ways. The first was a set of beauty products based on NO and designed to help stimulate blood flow to the skin. That increase in circulation promises to help improve texture, nutrients and moisture in the skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
The benefits of NO, however, aren’t just skin-deep.
“We’ve learned over the past 20 or 30 that, if you can prevent the loss of nitric oxide production [which happens with age], you can prevent most age-related chronic diseases,” says Bryan.
In people with healthy habits like eating leafy vegetables and exercising, NO levels tend to remain stable for a long time. Things start to go wrong, says Bryan, not only as we age (in other words: inevitably), but also prematurely, when using products that harm the mouth’s microbiome, which he says are part of what allows the body to access NO from food.
That’s because, in addition to digestion and oral health, the mouth’s microbiome plays a significant role in assisting the body’s processes in making NO. According to Bryan’s research, things like antibacterial mouthwash and toothpaste with fluoride upset the natural balance of the mouth’s bacteria and interrupt the body’s natural ability to produce this molecule.
Once we remove those substances from our routines, the biohacking can begin. For those with levels of NO that are too low, or whose ability to produce it naturally has begun to decline, an emerging supplement market has a range of products to help—including those from Bryan’s second company, Nitric Oxide Innovations. Applying his research background to his business acumen, Bryan’s company has created over-the-counter NO supplements and products, like lozenges and serums.
NO, he says, “is a magical molecule, because if you can maintain [it], everything works better. You get oxygen delivered to every cell in the body and mobilize the stem cells. And it’s a molecule that [most] people don’t know about.”
News outlets from Healthline to Men’s Health have reported on over-the-counter NO supplements (both their potential benefits and the inconclusive research about them). But Bryan is especially excited about the molecule’s potential benefits as a prescribed medical treatment. As of the time of publication, Nitric Oxide Innovations has received permission to submit an NO-related drug for fast-track review in the potential treatment of COVID-19. DR. Bryan’s product, NOviricid, promises to help respiratory function through vasodilation (when blood vessels expand) and anti-viral properties, according to the company website.
This potential pathway for new applications of nitric oxide, says Bryan, might not only be beneficial for future patients, but may also help the molecule gain recognition beyond the biohacking community. One of Bryan’s research areas, for example, has been the impact of NO on healing wounds, including diabetic wounds. In some cases, says Bryan, the accelerated treatment of diabetic wounds can even help patients forego amputation.
“As we move forward in drug discovery, getting drugs on the market, I think it will receive more attention,” he says. “In terms of supplements, the mainstream medical community doesn’t give it that much credence because it’s not a prescription they can write.
“To me, that’s the beauty of [NO supplements]. You don’t need a prescription [for] nitric oxide. You can do things that we’ve shown clinically to improve it and just stop doing the things that disrupt your body making it on its own.”
Catch Dr. Nathan S. Bryan, as well as dozens of other thought leaders in the field, in person at the Miami Biohacking Congress, October 22-23, 2022. Get tickets here.