Stink Science: Gas Found in Flatulence Can Be Harnessed to Protect Mitochondria

Don't judge a substance by its smell: hydrogen sulfide, a gas more associated with flatulence  than healthcare, is the key ingredient of a new compound designed to treat issues relating to heart attack, stroke, and dementia. 

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This one comes straight from the Department of "You Can't Make This Stuff Up." Hydrogen sulfide, a gas associated with the noxious stench of flatulence, has been found to protect mitochondria and help treat issues related to heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Scientists at the University of Exeter have created a new compound (AP39) that delivers small amounts of the gas to cells' mitochondria, steeling them from damage and deterioration. When mitochondria are damaged, cells are less able to fight disease.

What's the Big Idea?

Professor Matt Whiteman of the Exeter Medical School explains how a gas that evokes rotten eggs contributes to healthy cells:

“When cells become stressed by disease, they draw in enzymes to generate minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide. 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. We have exploited this natural process by making a compound, called AP39, which slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria. Our results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive.”

Research is ongoing and studies are beginning to hit publications, so more work is to be done in order to fully understand the gas's greater potential benefits. Still, it's suggested you don't take any undue initiative in testing hydrogen sulfide on yourself.

Read more at The University of Exeter

Photo credit: Wire_man / Shutterstock

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