Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a gas known for its noxious smell of rotten eggs. It has long been regarded as nothing more than a toxic substance of corrosive, flammable and explosive properties. However, it may well provide a key to more effective treatments of various inflammatory conditions, most notably arthritis.
The discovery made by a UK research team adds more weight to the argument that H2S could be the source of more than just foul-smelling environmental pollution. Aided by colleagues from King´s College London, the National University of Singapore and Queen´s University Belfast, researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School have discovered a drug molecule that slowly generates H2S, the result being effective reduction in joint swelling and inflammation.
Professor Matt Whiteman, at the University of Exeter Medical School, stated that the discovery could lead to the development of more effective arthritis treatments. Recent studies have shown that H2S is created in human and animal bodies by a particular set of enzymes. The body would hardly produce it if there were not any benefits to it. The research conducted by Professor Whiteman and his team has shown that slow release is the way to extract the therapeutic value of H2S. This is how the body itself produces the gas.
Previous research by the same team established that H2S levels were up to four times higher in the knee joints of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or another joint disease. However, they also found a strong correlation between elevated levels of H2S and fewer inflammatory cells in the joint. The new study offers more evidence that the purpose of H2S could be to counter inflammation, swelling and joint destruction.