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Hydrogen Sulphide could provide key to arthritis treatment

10th May 2013

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Research undertaken by scientists at the University of Exeter has revealed that a gas which was believed to have no positive use for mankind could actually have some health benefits. The research is particularly good news for those who use walk in showers due to arthritic joints as the gas is reported to effectively reduce joint swelling and inflammation.

The gas is known as hydrogen sulphide and has the chemical formula H?S, and it is most commonly recognised by the foul smell of rotten eggs that it gives off. It has widely been regarded by the science world simply as a highly poisonous by-product which is flammable, corrosive and an explosive. Despite all of these negative sides to the compound, researchers now believe that they have found a use for hydrogen sulphide which could benefit millions of arthritis sufferers.

The research was published recently in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and could lead to significant progress in the area of inflammatory conditions in general, one of which is arthritis. Professor Matt Whiteman, member of the team at the University of Exeter Medical School, has said that their research stemmed from the idea that hydrogen sulphide is actually produced naturally in both humans and animals by enzymes in the body. This suggested that it must have some benefit for the body, which is what the team decided to investigate.

The study showed that hydrogen sulphide levels were increased in the knee joints of patients with such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, but higher concentrations of the substance correlated strongly with a number of inflammatory cells in the joint which was lower. This led the team to conclude that the role of the substance could actually be to combat swelling and inflammation.

Professor Whiteman added that a number of compounds have already been able to prevent arthritis in the laboratory, but this is the first time that a class of compounds could reduce swelling and inflammation when arthritis is already active, findings that he describes as "extremely exciting". Other conditions which could benefit from these findings include diabetes and obesity, both of which have inflammatory aspects and affect large amounts of people across the world.

Dr Julie-Keeble from King's College London – co-author of the paper – added that this is a further step forward to helping users of stair lifts with arthritis find a treatment "without uncomfortable side effects", something which seems to be the case with many treatments currently available.

Image Credit: donjd2 (flickr.com)