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Chemical probe confirms that body makes its own H2S to benefit health

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Posted June 19, 2013
A still image of live human cells shows them generating hydrogen sulfide, H2S, after being treated with a protein that stimulates blood vessel formation. Researchers developed a new fluorescent chemical probe that makes it possible for scientists to observe cells as they generate H2S. Credit: SMU

A still image of live human cells shows them generating hydrogen sulfide, H2S, after being treated with a protein that stimulates blood vessel formation. Researchers developed a new fluorescent chemical probe that makes it possible for scientists to observe cells as they generate H2S. Credit: SMU

A new study confirms directly what scientists previously knew only indirectly: The poisonous “rotten egg” gas hydrogen sulfide is generated by our body’s growing cells. Hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, is normally toxic, but in small amounts it plays a role in cardiovascular health.

 

In the new study, chemists developed a chemical probe that reacts and lights up when live human cells generate hydrogen sulfide, says chemist Alexander R. Lippert, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. The discovery allows researchers to observe the process through a microscope.

The researchers captured on video the successful chemical probe at work, said Lippert, an assistant professor in SMU’s Department of Chemistry.

“We made a molecular probe that, when it reacts with hydrogen sulfide, forms a fluorescent compound that can be visualized using fluorescence microscopy,” Lippert said. “This is the first time that endogenously generated hydrogen sulfide has been directly visualized in a living system. This confirms a lot of hypotheses that scientists have, but no one had the tools to directly detect it in real time.”

H2S is one of several small gaseous molecules increasingly recognized as key signaling molecules in the body. For example, H2S helps reduce high blood pressure. Scientists discovered in the past decade that cells in the human body generate small quantities of H2S molecules, which in turn deliver information to proteins. The proteins act on the information to perform critical functions in the body.

Read more at: Phys.org

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