The pungent odour of rotten eggs and human flatulence is due to a compound called hydrogen sulphide, and researchers say it could hold the key to treating diabetes, stroke, heart attack and dementia.
“Hydrogen sulphide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence,” says Dr Mark Wood of Biosciences, at the University Of Exeter. “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.”
Scientists say it prevents decay of cells’ mitochondria, known in lay terms as the “powerhouse”, and they created a compound containing the gas called AP39 that is expected to provide speedy delivery to targeted treatment areas. Cell decay is well known to be at the root of ageing and it leads to a variety of age-related diseases such as stroke, heart failure, diabetes and arthritis. Their mitochondria also play a role in controlling inflammation.
“When cells become stressed by disease, they draw in enzymes to generate minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide,” says Prof Matt Whiteman of the University Of Exeter Medical School. “This keeps the mitochondria ticking over and allows cells to live. If this doesn’t happen, the cells die and lose the ability to regulate survival and control inflammation.”
Whiteman confirms his team was able to exploit this natural process by means of AP39, saying the stressed cells they observed in the laboratory thrived under treatment.
Cardiovascular disease testing models indicated survival of more than 80% of cells otherwise on the path to destruction after AP39 was administered. Such pre-clinical testing is currently being conducted on a variety of disease models and producing equally promising results.
For example, AP39 was able to reverse blood vessel stiffening in high blood pressure testing models and produced slow, more efficient heartbeats in earlier, small-scale cardiovascular testing models, which would increase the chances of surviving a heart attack.
Drs Whiteman and Wood say their research is advancing favourably towards human testing. Their study was published in Medicinal Chemistry Communications and a follow-up study was published in the Nitric Oxide Journal with collaborators from the University Of Texas Medical Branch. – AFP Relaxnews