Despite its well-known toxicity, carbon monoxide (CO) is now recognized as a potential therapeutic agent. Its inherent toxicity, however, has limited clinical applications because uncontrolled inhalation of the gas leads to severe systemic derangements in higher organisms. In order to obviate life-threatening effects and administer the gas by bypassing the respiratory system, CO releasing molecules (CORMs) have emerged in the last decades as a plausible alternative to deliver controlled quantities of CO in cellular systems and tissues. As stable, solid-storage forms of CO, CORMs can be used to deliver the gas following activation by a stimulus. Light-activated CORMs, known as photoCORMs, are one such example. This class of molecules is particularly attractive because, for possible applications of CORMs, temporal and spatial control of CO delivery is highly desirable. However, systems triggered by visible light are rare. Most currently known photoCORMs are activated with UV light, but red light or even infrared photo-activation is required to ensure that structures deeper inside the body can be reached while minimizing photo-damage to healthy tissue. Thus, one of the most challenging chemical goals in the preparation of new photoCORMs is the reduction of radiation energy required for their activation, together with strategies to modulate the solubility, stability and nontoxicity of the organic or organometallic scaffolds. In this contribution, we review the latest advances in visible light-activated photoCORMs, and the first promising studies on near-infrared light activation of the same.
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