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Hydrogen Sulfide May Treat High Blood Pressure

Researchers Say Hydrogen Sulfide Could Be the Key to New Drug Therapies for Hypertension
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 23, 2008 -- Hydrogen sulfide sometimes gets a bad rap because of its smell -- think rotten eggs -- but it actually is important for regulating our blood pressure, according to a new study.

Hydrogen sulfide is produced in the thin lining of the blood vessels and regulates blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels, according to the study published in Science.

Guangdong Yang, PhD, of the University of Saskatchewan and Lakehead University in Canada, and colleagues are basing their findings on studies performed in mice. Researchers examined two groups of mice -- one group of mice had been engineered to not have CSE, an enzyme long suspected of making hydrogen sulfide, and the other group of mice was normal. The hydrogen sulfide levels were measured in both. The ones without CSE had much lower levels of hydrogen sulfide. This provided evidence that mammals make hydrogen sulfide in tissues using CSE.

Next, the scientists put tiny cuffs on the tails of the mice and measured their blood pressure. The mice with lower levels of hydrogen sulfide experienced spikes of nearly 20 points in their blood pressure.

When mice deficient in CSE were given doses of hydrogen sulfide, they experienced lower blood pressure readings.

The study's authors argue that new drugs focused on hydrogen sulfide could be developed to treat hypertension in humans.

"Now that we know hydrogen sulfide's role in regulating blood pressure, it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension," says co-author and Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Solomon H. Snyder, MD, in a news release.

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