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What is nitroglycerin?

Nitroglycerin (NG), also known as nitroglycerine, trinitroglycerin (TNG), trinitroglycerine, nitro, glyceryl trinitrate (GTN), or 1,2,3-trinitroxypropane, is a heavy, colorless, oily, explosive liquid most commonly produced by nitrating glycerol with white fuming nitric acid under conditions appropriate to the formation of the nitric acid ester. Chemically, the substance is an organic nitrate compound rather than a nitro compound, yet the traditional name is often retained. Invented in 1847, nitroglycerin has been used as an active ingredient in the manufacture of explosives, mostly dynamite, and as such it is employed in the construction, demolition, and mining industries. Since the 1880s, it has been used by the military as an active ingredient, and a gelatinizer for nitrocellulose, in some solid propellants, such as cordite and ballistite.

Nitroglycerin is also a major component in double-based smokeless gunpowders used by reloaders. Combined with nitrocellulose, there are hundreds of powder combinations used by rifle, pistol, and shotgun reloaders.

For over 130 years, nitroglycerin has been used medically as a potent vasodilator (dilation of the vascular system) to treat heart conditions, such as angina pectoris and chronic heart failure. Though it was previously known that these beneficial effects are due to nitroglycerin being converted to nitric oxide, a potent venodilator, it was not until 2002 that the enzyme for this conversion was discovered to be mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase. Nitroglycerin is available in sublingual tablets, sprays, and patches. Other potential suggested uses include adjunct therapy in prostate cancer. It is also used topically, in low doses, for the treatment of chronic anal fissures.