Levels of a toxic gas in the brain can affect whether or not you develop dementia and epilepsy, a study reveals.
The gas, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), is produced in the body in small doses – and is perhaps best known for carrying it the scorching smell of rotten eggs.
H2S is produced in the brain and several smooth muscles, including the thoracic aorta (the portion of the aorta in the chest) and the ileum (the last portion of the small intestine).
By testing rat brain cells, the scientists found that H2S is involved in blocking an important gateway to brain cells that helps the brain communicate effectively.
Treatments to lower the levels of H2S in the brain – thus addressing dementia and epilepsy – can help prevent gas damage.
Dementia is a term used to describe the symptoms that occur when brain function declines. A possible treatment for dementia and epilepsy could be to reduce the amounts of a toxic gas in the brain, a new study of rat brain cells has been revealed (stock image)
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a colorless, flammable gas with the characteristic smell of rotten eggs.
It is produced naturally by the human body and as a result of human activity outside of the human body.
Natural sources include nonspecific and anaerobic bacterial reduction of sulfates and sulfur-containing organic compounds.
Hydrogen sulfide is naturally found in crude oil, natural gas, volcanic gases, hot springs and groundwater.
It is released from stagnant or polluted water and from manure or coal pits.
H2S is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream by the lungs.
The research was conducted by experts from the University of Reading, the University of Leeds and John Hopkins University in the US.
“This is an exciting finding because it gives us new insights into the role of hydrogen sulfide in various brain diseases, such as dementia and epilepsy,” said study author Dr. Mark Dallas of the University of Reading.
“There is a growing interest in the effect of hydrogen sulfide on the brain and this study shows how important the consequences of its construction can be for the proper functioning of the brain.”
Researchers found that H2S disrupts the normal functioning of potassium channels, which regulate electrical activity across connections between brain cells.
“When these channels are blocked from working properly, we see over-excitable brain cells that we think lead to nerve cell death,” said Dr. Dallas.
“The implication for potential treatments is particularly exciting, because finding drugs that target hydrogen sulfide production in our brains can have a myriad of benefits for disease.”
Although H2S is produced in the body in small doses, it is also naturally found in crude oil, natural gas, volcanic gases, hot springs and groundwater.
Human exposure to hydrogen sulfide produced outside the body is mainly through inhalation and the gas is rapidly absorbed by the lungs.
A 2001 study researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada found that the gas appeared to decrease cognitive performance in rats.
It has also previously been linked to brain and nervous system damage in humans.
For the new study, rat brain cells were loaded with an H2S donor molecule and then the electrical signals from brain cells were monitored.
Hydrogen sulfide is naturally found in crude oil, natural gas, volcanic gases, hot springs and groundwater. Human exposure to exogenous hydrogen sulfide is primarily through inhalation, and the gas is rapidly absorbed by the lungs. In the photo, hydrogen sulfide and other gases along with groundwater steam seep from the ground at Sulfur Banks (Ha’akulamanu) in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The resulting exposure to H2S increased activity in brain cells and the study was able to determine that the effect was specifically controlled by the potassium channel tested.
The team was also able to identify which part of the potassium channel increased this activity.
They used a mutated form of the potassium channel that has already been shown to protect nerve cells from a variety of toxic stimuli, including amyloid beta, a dangerous protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
The researchers found that the mutation was resistant to the effect of H2S seen in natural cells.
The specific mutated channel is now of particular interest for Alzheimer’s disease research, given its protective benefits against amyloid beta.
‘This exciting study shows the growing evidence that gasotransmitters play important roles as signaling molecules in the regulation of the physiological processes underlying Alzheimer’s disease, which are relatively poorly understood, opening new avenues for research and drug discovery’ , said Dr. Moza Al-Owais. , Research Fellow at the University of Leeds.
Worldwide, about 50 million people suffer from dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Alzheimer’s disease, which slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, can contribute to 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases.
More than 920,000 people in the UK are living with dementia – a figure expected to rise to over a million by 2024, according to the British Alzheimer’s Society.
The new research is published in Scientific reports
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER’S DISEASE THAT ROBS SUFFERS FROM THEIR MEMORIES
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological conditions
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a series of progressive neurological conditions (affecting the brain) that affect memory, thinking and behavior.
There are many different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common.
Some people may have a combination of types of dementia.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global problem, but it is most common in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live to be very old.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports that there are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, of which more than 500,000 have Alzheimer’s disease.
It is estimated that the number of people with dementia in the UK will rise to over 1 million by 2025.
In the US, there are an estimated 5.5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease. A comparable percentage increase is expected for the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of developing dementia.
The number of diagnoses is improving, but it is thought that many people with dementia are still undiagnosed.
IS THERE A TREATMENT?
Currently, there is no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow its progression, and the sooner it’s noticed, the more effective the treatments are.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society