Rotten Egg Gas May Be Key to Human Longevity
Well, the latest research cites a gaseous compound called hydrogen sulphide that may well may play a big role in staving off the aging process, reports a team of scientists from The University of South China, Hunan.
Gas that smells of Rotten Eggs
The inflammable gas, Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is colourless and poisonous. It comes with the characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs. Worse than that, just a few breaths of air containing high levels of this gas can cause death. In addition, lower, and long-term exposure can lead to eye irritation, fatigue and headache.
Our human body produces minute amounts of hydrogen sulfide. This gas is used by the body as a signaling molecule.
“Hydrogen sulfide is produced within the human body, and has a variety of important physiological effects. For example, it relaxes the vascular endothelium and smooth muscle cells, which is important to maintaining clean arteries as one ages,” reports Dr Zhi-Sheng Jiang from Institute of Cardiovascular Disease department of The University of South China. Dr. Jiang is the senior author of the paper that was published in The Journal of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
“H2S has been gaining increasing attention as an important endogenous signaling molecule because of its significant effects on the cardiovascular and nervous systems.”
Slows down Aging Process
Dr Jiang further stated that there is increasing evidence that hydrogen sulfide may increase longevity by slowing down the aging process through its inhibiting free-radical reactions. It does this by activating SIRT1, an enzyme said to be a regulator of lifespan; very likely through its interactions with an age-related gene named Klotho, apparently gives it its own anti-aging activity.
This specific gene Klotho, in conjunction with hydrogen sulfide, apparently helps to extend human lifespan via a number of different pathways: according to scientists, some of these pathways promote the production of endogenous antioxidants.
“Produced in the kidneys, it has direct angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibiting activity; that is, it’s an ACE inhibitor, just like certain drugs that mitigate high blood pressure. Not surprisingly, plasma hydrogen sulfide declines with age, and is lower in spontaneously hypertensive rats than in those with normal blood pressure. More generally, a lack of hydrogen sulfide is implicated in cardiovascular disease.”
Aid for Neurological Health
The scientists also found that a decline in hydrogen sulfide may well undermine neurological health. Experiments conducted have indicated that endogenous hydrogen sulfide was lacking in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease and and quantities were severely diminished in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Further studies have even suggested, albeit mostly in animal models (but also in human studies) that hydrogen sulfide may give a measure of protection against cancer.
“Data available so far strongly suggest that H2S may become the next potent agent for preventing and ameliorating the symptoms of aging and age-associated diseases,” Dr Jiang said.
“In the future, people may take H2S via food, or as an anti-aging supplement.”
Bibliographic information: Zhang Y et al. Hydrogen sulfide: the next potent preventive and therapeutic agent in aging and age-associated diseases. Mol. Cell. Bio., published online ahead of print January 07, 2013; doi: 10.1128/MCB.01215-12