The next time someone at your office lets out a "silent but deadly" emission, maybe you should thank them. A new study at the University of Exeter suggests that exposure to hydrogen sulfide — a.k.a. what your body produces as bacteria breaks down food, causing gas — could prevent mitochondria damage. Yep, the implication is what you're thinking: People are taking the research to mean that smelling farts could prevent disease and even cancer.
However the actual study paints a better picture.
Professor Matt Whiteman, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “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.”
Dr. Mark Wood of Biosciences, at the University of Exeter, added “Although hydrogen sulfide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, 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.”
The research is being conducted in several models of disease, and pre-clinical results are promising. For example, in models of cardiovascular disease, research shows that more than 80 per cent of the powerhouse mitochondria cells survive under otherwise highly destructive conditions, if the AP39 is administered. Professors Whiteman and Wood are now working towards advancing the research to a stage where it can be tested in humans.