Nitroglycerin - a key component of TNT - has been a medicine cabinet mainstay for 150 years, but scientists who studied its effects on cells say doctors should rethink its use.
A team of medical researchers who have been analyzing the effects of nitroglycerin for years have concluded that it can have a "biologically corrosive" effect on some people, especially those with diabetes, transforming their blood vessels into the equivalent of rusted pipes.
Nitroglycerin is prescribed to relieve the crushing pain of angina, a condition in which clogged arteries stifle the flow of blood to the heart. It was discovered as a drug in a Swedish dynamite factory.
Dynamite makers who also suffered from angina found that they felt significantly better while at work inhaling factory debris. The compound relaxes blood vessels. The mechanism by which this occurs has been a matter of debate for decades.
The new findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Jonathan Stamler, lead scientist of a Duke University team that examined the effects of nitroglycerin on certain cellular components, is calling for the world's first clinical trial of the medication.