Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is a gas most commonly associated with the smell of stink bombs, sewage and rotten eggs, but a team of researchers from the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England and King's College London have now identified a role for this gas in regulating blood pressure, according to research published today in the leading science journal "Circulation".
The research team has previously shown that H2S is produced naturally within our bodies, along with other gaseous molecules such as nitric oxide and that a balance between these gases relates to good health, whereas an imbalance could indicate disease. In the case of high blood pressure, a reduction in nitric oxide results in increased blood pressure, while H2S may counteract this.
H2S works by relaxing vascular tissue and improving the flexibility of veins and arteries, making for a smoother flow of blood around the body. In the past, limited studies on H2S could be performed as the only approach available to researchers was to use H2S gas from a cylinder or the highly toxic compound sodium hydrosulphide (NaHS), often administered as a bolus.
However, the research team from the Peninsula Medical School and King's College have synthesised a new molecule which would allow H2S to be released into the body in a more controllable and regulated manner. The result is a slow-releasing H2S donor molecule which can be used to model the effects of naturally produced H2S and allow researchers to further understand the role H2S has in the body during health and disease.
Prof. Philip K. Moore from King's College commented: "The enzymes that make H2S in the body do so slowly. Therefore, generating H2S in a slow and sustained manner may be a better way to study the physiology and pathophysiology of H2S in man than previously used approaches".
Dr. Matt Whiteman from the Peninsula Medical School added: "These are exciting times. We are only just starting to unravel the surprising role H2S has in the body not only in the cardiovascular system but also its role in inflammation, neurodegeneration and diabetes, as well as its role in health".
More information is available by logging on at www.pms.ac.uk.
29th April 2008.
NOTE TO EDITORS
The Peninsula Medical School is a joint entity of the University of Exeter, the University of Plymouth and the NHS in the South West of England, and a partner of the Combined Universities in Cornwall. The Peninsula Medical School has created for itself an excellent national and international reputation for groundbreaking research in the areas of diabetes and obesity, neurological disease, child development and ageing, clinical education and health technology assessment.