Hydrogen sulfide, otherwise known as “swamp gas” because it smells like rotten eggs, may unlock the door to a next generation of diabetes treatments.
The foul-smelling substance is produced primarily by decaying vegetation. However, it is also produced in small quantities inside the human body, where it may offer protective benefits not previously understood.
A research team from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that hydrogen sulfide “plays a critical role in protecting blood vessels from the complications of diabetes.”
Dr. Csaba Szabo headed the UTMB team, which began by exposing human endothelial cells (cells that line the blood vessels) to sugar at levels similar to what a diabetic person would experience.
According to a report in Diabetic Live, the results were exciting:
- Upon exposure to such high sugar levels, the cells started to produce increasing amounts of highly reactive toxic free radicals, and as a consequence, they began to die,” Dr. Szabo stated.
However, the presence of hydrogen sulfide affected the health of the endothelial cells: “Low hydrogen sulfide levels accelerated this process, while constant replacement of hydrogen sulfide protected the cells against the toxic effects of high sugar.”
In other words, exposing the cells to swamp gas had a protective effect against the complications of diabetes.
In treating diabetic rats, researchers were able to improve the condition of the rats’ blood vessels by exposing them to hydrogen sulfide treatment for a month.
Dr. Szabo said, “The loss of endothelial cell function in diabetes is a first step that leads to many complications, such as eye disease, heart disease, kidney disease, foot disease, and others. Low hydrogen sulfide levels accelerated this process, while constant replacement of hydrogen sulfide protected the cells against the toxic effects of high sugar.”
In Szabo’s view, these observations about hydrogen sulfide may open the door for new therapies.