See Inside March 2010

Toxic Gas, Lifesaver

Hydrogen sulfide, a lethal gas best known for smelling like rotten eggs, turns out to play key roles in the body—a finding that could lead to new treatments for heart attack victims and others

Imagine walking into a hospital emergency room, with its hand-sanitizer-adorned walls and every surface meticulously scrubbed free of contaminants, only to encounter the stench of rotten eggs. Distasteful though this juxtaposition might sound, the toxic gas synonymous with that smell—hydrogen sulfide (H2S)—may well become a fixture in such settings in the future. Over the past decade scientists have discovered that H2S is actually essential to a number of processes in the body, including controlling blood pressure and regulating metabolism. Our findings indicate that if harnessed properly, the gas could, among other benefits, help treat heart attack patients and keep trauma victims alive until they can undergo surgery or receive a blood transfusion.

A Whiff of Poison

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