A Stinky, Explosive Gas Shows Hope For Remediation Of Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Dementia And Other Major Diseases
You are lucky if you've never smelled hydrogen sulfide, a gas most strongly wafting from swamps and sewers. But you probably have smelled it, as hydrogen sulfide is present in flatulence and in rotten eggs. It results from the breakdown of organic matter without the benefit of oxygen. In anything but very tiny amounts, hydrogen sulfide is very toxic, flammable, and corrosive. But researchers at Great Britain's University of Exeter have found some promising applications for this gas when used in small doses and targeted to certain cells in our bodies.
Actually, hydrogen sulfide is produced in small amounts by our bodies and there it has beneficial, indeed necessary, properties. For one, it acts as a vasodilator, important to a healthy heart, healthy brain, and vital to other major organs and soft tissue in the body as well. For this reason, scientists have been looking to hydrogen sulfide as a possible intervention to reduce heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and even dementia.
Hydrogen sulfide, the Exeter researchers previously found, protects a cell's mitochondria, a cell's source of energy, its "powerhouse," critical to the life of each cell. If the mitochondria die, the cell dies. In their current study, the researchers created a compound, AP39, containing small amounts of hydrogen sulfide. They slowly injected the compound into threatened cells and found that the mitochondria survived.
The formula has been tested in a variety of diseased cells with a very high success rate, keeping the mitochondria alive and reversing the path of the disease. The team's most current studies are published in Medicinal Chemistry Communications and The Nitric Oxide Journal (with collaborators from the University of Texas Medical Branch). Even more recent research, discussed at an international conference on Hydrogen Sulfide in Biology and Medicine in Kyoto, showed that AP39 reduced blood vessel stiffening and lowered blood pressure, as well as dramatically improved the chances of survival after a heart attack by slowing down the heart beat.
Dr. Mark Woods of the University of Exeter Biosciences Department, one of the lead researchers in the AP39 studies, remarked: "Although hydrogen sulfide is well known as a pungent, foul smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could, in fact, be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases."