November 14, 2008

Toxic Gas Protects Hearts

It stinks and strikes fear in the hearts of those who work underground, but the toxic gas hydrogen sulfide may be a lifesaver for patients with heart failure.

In a recent study, low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas improved functioning in the hearts of mice with heart failure. After heart failure was induced in mice, the gas was administered intravenously once a day for a week. Four weeks after the heart failure event, mice treated with hydrogen sulfide had about a one-third higher ejection fraction, a way of measuring heart function, than control mice.

Similar results took place in mice engineered to produce more hydrogen sulfide in their bodies.

In another study, researchers found the toxic gas appears to help heart muscle cells produce their own antioxidants and molecules that fend off cell death in the heart. In addition, when enzymes in the body produce hydrogen sulfide in small amounts, it helps regulate blood pressure and lessen inflammation.

SOURCE: Presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2008 in New Orleans, La. November 8-12, 2008