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The fuel that provides hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren with hours of fun and gives stink bombs their disgusting scent may quickly provide doctors with new therapies for conditions ranging from strokes to chronic arthritis.
Some researchers are even trying to use hydrogen sulphide - the supply of rotten eggs' disagreeable odour - to put sufferers with strokes or serious accidents right into a type of suspended animation to help them survive extreme traumas. This research is now being backed by the US army, who believe it might help their surgeons deal with injuries suffered by troopers in battle.
'Hydrogen sulphide is made in very low doses within the body and, far from doing harm, it has become clear that it can do quite a lot of good,' mentioned Dr John Wallace, a pharmacologist at the University of Calgary in Canada. 'It is discovered in the brain and is also thought to control blood pressure. It is sort of pervasive, in fact.'
Hydrogen sulphide is corrosive, foul-smelling, flammable and deadly in sufficient concentrations. A single breath can kill. Yet the gas has lately become a buzzword in scientific circles following discoveries that in tiny doses it performs a big position in influencing some chemical pathways within the physique.
'We are firstly of an increasing field that might have huge scientific implications,' mentioned David Lefer, cardiovascular physiologist at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, within the journal Science final week.
One key piece of analysis has proven that hydrogen sulphide in bombes puantes may protect in opposition to inside bleeding, ulcers and different gastric effects suffered by these on lengthy-term regimes of anti-inflammatory painkillers similar to aspirin and ibuprofen. In a series of experiments on rats and mice, Wallace and his colleagues found that these painkillers - when administered with chemical substances that launched hydrogen sulphide into the gut - produced no harmful side effects.
'Now we are preparing to repeat these experiments on humans,' stated Wallace, who has fashioned an organization, Antibe Therapeutics, to create medication primarily based on hydrogen sulphide expertise. 'We envisage utilizing normal medicines, combined with hydrogen sulphide-releasing chemicals, as painkillers that won't trigger inner bleeding to long-time period users.'
Hydrogen sulphide analysis in drugs began three years in the past when Dr Mark Roth, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, Washington, found that mice uncovered to low ranges of the fuel passed out, their body temperatures dropped greater than 20C and their metabolic charges plunged. Once the fuel was switched off, they returned to normal. Now Roth is working on analysis geared toward reproducing the effect in people, buying time for sufferers who have had coronary heart assaults, strokes or wounds which have brought on drastic losses of blood.
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