Aug 19, 2010

Chest pains? Quick!! Pull my finger!!

Hydrogen sulfide stinks, but you knew that already, didn't you. Hydrogen sulfide is flammable, but you probably knew that too (and I won't ask how). But did you know hydrogen sulfide lowers blood pressure? and might protect the body from injury?

As little as 10 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide can irritate your eyes. 1000 ppm can kill you almost instantly. But some scientists like John Wallace of the University of Calgary say it also possesses some protective properties as low doses can stimulate gastric ulcer healing. It even protects mouse hearts from artificially induced heart attack says David Lefer of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Of course, how all this works is a bit harder to squeeze out (sorry..) and some say it could be that the gas soothes the perturbed mitochondria in the cells, effectively dodging the trigger to self-destruct.

But the key to the little stink bomb's success might have to do with Sleep. Mark Roth of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found that it can induce a sort of suspended animation:

Exposed to 80 ppm of hydrogen sulfide, mice enter into what we call a 'hibernation-like' state, where their core temperature can be reduced as much as 11 degrees and their metabolic rate as judged by carbon dioxide production and oxygen consumption drops 10-fold. We've kept the animals in this state for 6 hours and they recover completely.

He and others in the field note that hydrogen sulfide and other mechanisms to alter the metabolic rate might make it possible to slow down the clock for trauma victims and preserve human organs for transplant. But nothing's FDA approved.. so you don't need to plug your nose at the ER just yet.

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