- Hydrogen sulfide makes flatulence smell like rotten eggs
- Cells produce it when they are sick to shore up an important component
- The mitochondria generates energy for the cell, keeping it alive
- Two scientists hope a new drug will target mitochondria with hydrogen sulfide
An old children's ditty goes: "Beans, beans, they're good for your heart. The more you eat, the more you...." Well, you know.
There's wisdom in that wit that may help you to live longer, according to medical researchers working on a new drug.
A big part of the stink in flatulence comes from the chemical hydrogen sulfide, which is produced in the digestion of certain foods -- like beans.
Hydrogen sulfide smells like foul eggs and is sometimes called rotten egg gas.
It is combustible, corrosive and highly poisonous. (No surprises there, eh?) So poisonous, in fact, that some scientists give it the blame for a prehistoric mass extinction.
But a pinch of it in the right place can prevent heart failure and stroke, and put the brakes on aging. Scientists have known this for a while.
Now, two British scientists, Matt Whiteman and Mark Wood, have developed a drug called AP39 to target the delivery of hydrogen sulfide to that right place, inside of our cells. Once there, it protects a key part, the mitochondria, which generates the cell's energy.
Hydrogen sulfide can prevent and even reverse mitochondrial damage, and healthy mitochondria make cells stronger, helping them live longer.
Weak mitochondria often go hand in hand with serious disease, and when you get sick, your cells create their own hydrogen sulfide to shore up the cellular organ.
What AP39 is for
That doesn't always go right, which is where AP39 comes in, Whiteman says. And it seems to be working. Weakened animal cells treated with the experimental drug have stayed alive.
The University of Exeter scientists have more work to do before it can be tested on humans, but Wood is optimistic that AP39 "could in fact be a healthcare hero" that doctors may use to treat many diseases.
The drug targets blood vessels, replenishing them, and, in tests, has reduced blood pressure and pulse rates.
Like the song says: It's good for the heart.
But since the healthy kind of hydrogen sulfide is produced inside your cells -- and does its works there -- there's probably no need to go eating beans to produce more of the kind that exits the body with a trumpeting sound.
And then subjecting yourself to the stench of.... Well, you know.