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Poisonous Gas that Smells Like Rotten Eggs May Be Unlikely Aid for Inflammation, Arthritis

Update Date: Apr 30, 2013 09:48 AM EDT

If you'd like to curb inflammation and swelling, you probably aren't going to want to turn first to hydrogen sulfide. A gas that smells like rotting eggs, the gas has been known to be poisonous, corrosive and explosive. However, researchers are discovering that there may be a lighter side to the gas as well. It may be able to combat the inflammation so common in arthritis, as well as to improve the lives of people who suffer from diabetes.

In addition to acting as an environmental pollutant, hydrogen sulfide is created in the body by a specific set of enzymes. As a result, the team of researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, Technische Universität München in Germany and the National University of Singapore believed that it may hold a health benefit. They also found that levels of hydrogen sulfide were increased in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Though it may seem that the gas was linked to the development of the condition, it appears that higher levels of hydrogen sulfide decreased the number of inflammatory cells in the joints affected by the arthritis. It also seems that the gas appears in the joints after the development of arthritis, thus indicating that it plays a role in the reduction of swelling and inflammation.

Researchers have also found that the gas appears in lower levels in people who are overweight or who suffer from diabetes, resulting in higher blood pressure, higher levels of blood sugr and poorer insulin sensitivity. The gas has also been found to reduce injury to smokers' lungs and to promote the healing of ulcers.

"A patient will usually visit their doctor with a joint already inflamed, swollen and painful. Since the compound worked after arthritis was established, it may be useful in treating arthritis in the future. Many compounds can prevent arthritis in the laboratory, but of course nobody knows when they will get arthritis. Having a class of compounds which reduce inflammation and swelling when arthritis is already active is extremely exciting. These molecules may also be useful in other inflammatory conditions, and even in the inflammatory aspects of diabetes and obesity," Matt Whiteman, a professor and an author of the study, said in a statement.

The team believes that the positive elements of the gas are seen when it is released slowly, as in the body. They feel that hydrogen sulfide could likely serve as a welcome alternative to patients, especially those with arthritis, who do not tolerate their medication well.

The study was published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

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