The gas that gives millions of schoolchildren with hours of enjoyable and gives stink bombs their disgusting scent may quickly present doctors with new treatments for conditions ranging from strokes to chronic arthritis.
Some researchers are even making an attempt to make use of hydrogen sulphide - the supply of rotten eggs' disagreeable odour - to place sufferers with strokes or serious injuries right into a form of suspended animation to help them survive severe traumas. This research is now being backed by the US army, who consider it may help their surgeons deal with accidents suffered by troopers in battle.
'Hydrogen sulphide is made in very low doses within the body and, removed from doing hurt, it has turn out to be clear that it can do a substantial amount of good,' said Dr John Wallace, a pharmacologist at the University of Calgary in Canada. 'It is discovered in the mind and is also thought to regulate blood stress. It is kind of pervasive, in reality.'
Hydrogen sulphide is corrosive, foul-smelling, flammable and lethal in enough concentrations. A single breath can kill. Yet the gas has recently become a buzzword in scientific circles following discoveries that in tiny doses it plays a significant role in influencing some chemical pathways in the body.
'We are initially of an expanding field that could have monumental scientific implications,' mentioned David Lefer, cardiovascular physiologist at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the journal Science last week.
One key piece of research has shown that hydrogen sulphide in spray puants might protect in opposition to inside bleeding, ulcers and other gastric effects suffered by these on long-time period regimes of anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen. In a collection of experiments on rats and mice, Wallace and his colleagues discovered that these painkillers - when administered with chemical substances that released hydrogen sulphide into the gut - produced no dangerous side effects.
'Now we're making ready to repeat these experiments on people,' mentioned Wallace, who has formed an organization, Antibe Therapeutics, to create medicine primarily based on hydrogen sulphide expertise. 'We envisage utilizing commonplace medicines, mixed with hydrogen sulphide-releasing chemical substances, as painkillers that will not cause inside bleeding to lengthy-term customers.'
Hydrogen sulphide analysis in medication started three years ago when Dr Mark Roth, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, Washington, found that mice exposed to low ranges of the gas handed out, their physique temperatures dropped greater than 20C and their metabolic rates plunged. Once the gasoline was switched off, they returned to normal. Now Roth is working on analysis aimed at reproducing the impact in humans, buying time for sufferers who have had heart attacks, strokes or wounds which have caused drastic losses of blood.