It may be stinky, but the gas blamed for smelly flatulence and the smell of rotten eggs also appears to play a role in regulating blood pressure, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reveal in a study.
Researchers found that hydrogen sulfide, the unpleasant aroma expelled by bacteria in the human colon, relaxed the blood pressure of rodents by relaxing blood vessels and preventing hypertension.
They believe the gas would have the same effect on human blood vessels and hope the discovery leads to the development of new medications to treat the disease, according to a study published in the Oct. 24 issue of the journal Science.
"Now that we know hydrogen sulfide's role in regulating blood pressure, it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension," said Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, Dr. Solomon H. Snyder, a co-author of the paper, in a news release.
Researchers conducted their experiments on rodents missing the enzyme CSE, which is long suspected as responsible for making hydrogen sulfide. As a result of the missing CSE, the rodents’ bodies were severely depleted of hydrogen sulfide.
After applying blood pressure cuffs to the rodents, researchers found their blood pressure had spiked 20 percent, which is comparable to serious hypertension in humans.
"In terms of relaxing blood vessels, it looks like hydrogen sulfide might be as important as nitric oxide," Snyder says, referring to the first gasotransmitter that two decades ago was discovered to regulate blood pressure.