New fluorescent sensor able to detect nitric oxide, a molecule related to many diseases

The detection of certain chemical compounds in our bodies is essential in preventing many diseases and seeking out their treatment. So, making advances in the development of compounds that can be easily detected is key for the development of medicine. This is the case of nitric oxide, a molecule involved in countless cardiovascular, neurological, and immune system processes, among others. Now, the detection of nitric oxide may be executed more efficiently and selectively, thanks to a new fluorescent compound developed by researchers at Jaume I University (Castellón, Spain).

Related: Water-soluble fluorescent probe shows potential for early cancer detection

The new compounds can detect the presence of nitric oxide by fluorescence. They also have the advantage of being highly selective because they do not interact with other typical substances that can be found in the biological environment. This progress can be very useful to the medical and pharmaceutical industry because nitric oxide is involved in several cellular biochemical processes. For this reason, it is related to pathologies―including cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and immune disorders―associated with them. After patenting the results, the Photochemistry and Sensors and Sustainable Chemistry groups at the university have begin a new search phase of industrial partners to transfer molecules to them or to research and develop applications with them.

Francisco Galindo and Alicia Beltrán Beltrán
Francisco Galindo and Alicia Beltrán Beltrán. (Photo courtesy of Àlex Pérez)

"The detection of nitric oxide is essential to understand countless biochemical processes; there are many pathologies associated with this molecule that could be potentially detected if we knew a detailed knowledge of its levels," reports Francisco Galindo, director of the project developed by the Spanish Ministry of Education, which funded the research. The presence of nitric oxide at a biological level is currently being detected by using fluorescent probes; their main problem is that they also interact with other compounds, and that is why false positives can be given. The organic molecules developed by the Jaume researchers can properly interact with nitric oxide―the newest aspect is that they do not interact with other related species, especially with dehydroascorbic acid (DHA), but it does happen with many current nitric oxide probes.

The developed molecules are obtained by a simple procedure that allows synthesizing a large amount of product in a few steps and economically, as it is made from commercially accessible products. "Besides, they are highly versatile, which is important when selecting the accurate molecule regarding the excitation source available, either laser or another light source," explains Galindo.

Once the laboratory phase for synthesizing and characterizing these compounds is over, the research group is seeking industrial partners to transfer molecules for its commercial exploitation or to work together with them for researching and developing applications. "For instance, as a following step, it will be relevant to manage previous tests at the cellular level to check the potential diagnosis of the new probes," explains Galindo.

Full details of the work appear in the journal Chemical Communications; for more information, please visit


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