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Despite hydrogen sulfide being characterized as a corrosive, poisonous, and foul-smelling gas, its reputation could soon change according to a new study. Researchers have demonstrated that the rotten eggs smelling gas could help protect against aging brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease according to studies in mice.

Hydrogen sulfide could offer a solution to AD

John Hopkins Medicine conducted the study in collaboration with the University of Exeter. They reported the findings in The Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. Lead study corresponding author Bindu Paul indicated that new study data links hydrogen sulfide cell signaling, neurodegeneration, and aging within the cell.

Usually, the human body creates small amounts of hydrogen sulfide that help in regulating functions in the body from cell metabolism to blood vessel dilation. Interestingly, the rapidly growing gasotransmission field indicates that gases are vital cellular messenger molecules with specific importance in the brain. But, unlike common neurotransmitters, gases aren’t stored in vesicles. Therefore they act through a different mechanism to quickly facilitate cellular messaging. Notably, in the case of hydrogen sulfide, it entails modification of target proteins through chemical sulfhydration to modulate activity.

Principal investigator Milos Filipovic said that past studies using the new method have indicated that sulfhydration levels tend to decrease in the brain as one gets old and this trend gets amplified in Alzheimer’s diseases. Milos said that using the same method they discovered that there sulfhydration a decrease in Alzheimer’s disease brain.

Researchers studied mice mimicking Alzheimer’s in humans

In the current study, researchers studied mice that were engineered genetically to mimic Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers injected the animals with a hydrogen sulfide-carrying compound, NaGYY that was developed by Exeter University researchers. The compound releases passenger hydrogen sulfide molecules slowly throughout the body. The mice were then tested for motor function and memory changes over 12 weeks.

Tests indicated that hydrogen sulfide boosted motor and cognitive function in mice by 50% relative to the mice that didn’t receive NaGYY. Most importantly, the treated mice remembered locations of platform exits easily and were physically active compared to the control group.