Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England and King's College London have found that hydrogen sulphide (H2S), a gas most commonly associated with the smell of stink bombs, sewage and rotten eggs, is involved in regulating blood pressure
In previous studies, the research team has shown that H2S is produced naturally within our bodies, along with other gaseous molecules such as nitric oxide and that a balance between these gases relates to good health, whereas an imbalance could indicate disease.
In the case of high blood pressure, a reduction in nitric oxide results in increased blood pressure, while H2S may counteract this.
Hydrogen Sulphide works by relaxing vascular tissue and improving the flexibility of veins and arteries, making for a smoother flow of blood around the body.
In the past, limited studies on H2S could be performed as the only approach available to researchers was to use H2S gas from a cylinder or the highly toxic compound sodium hydrosulphide (NaHS), often administered as a bolus.
But in the new study, the research team has synthesised a new molecule, which would allow H2S to be released into the body in a more controllable and regulated manner.
The result is a slow-releasing H2S donor molecule, which could be used to model the effects of naturally produced H2S and allow researchers to further understand the role H2S has in the body during health and disease.
"The enzymes that make H2S in the body do so slowly. Therefore, generating H2S in a slow and sustained manner may be a better way to study the physiology and pathophysiology of H2S in man than previously used approaches, "Prof. Philip K. Moore from King's College said.
Dr. Matt Whiteman from the Peninsula Medical School added: "These are exciting times. We are only just starting to unravel the surprising role H2S has in the body not only in the cardiovascular system but also its role in inflammation, neurodegeneration and diabetes, as well as its role in health".
The study is published in the leading science journal Circulation.