Deadly gas gives diabetes patients a better life

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A deadly gas may be the key to helping diabetes sufferers recover from heart and blood vessel complications.

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School have found that—in small doses—hydrogen sulfide can prevent damage to the body’s endothelial cells, which line blood vessels and help regulate the exchange of oxygen and food between blood and surrounding tissues. 

Published in Pharmacological Research, the study found that the drugs AP39 and AP123 can deliver minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide to the mitochondrial cells to help prevent the cells from becoming inefficient and leaky in the presence of excess glucose in the blood. This prevents the production of free radical oxygen that ultimately damages endothelial cells and prevents the body’s organs from receiving the blood they need to function.

Research was performed on mice and revealed that AP39 and AP123 restored the efficiency of mitochondria and prevented the build-up of harmful free radicals. Researchers found that the drugs’ effects were long-lasting, which suggests they could help treat heart problems and blood vessel complications that occur in the heart, kidney and eyes of people with diabetes.

"Some people find it amusing that a substance with such a bad reputation can produce these benefits, but nearly every cell in our body makes and responds to tiny amounts of hydrogen sulfide and we have at least three distinct pathways for making this gas in very small quantities so it is very important,” Matthew Whiteman, a professor at the University of Exeter Medical School, said in a statement. “We previously showed that replacing the lost hydrogen sulfide with AP39 reversed this damage in cardiac arrest, hypertension and kidney failure damage and this current study adds AP123 to our portfolio of promising new drugs for diabetes.”