Peninsula Logo Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas is quite rightly associated to the smell of ‘rotten eggs’ and now seems to be present in our body. Apparently hydrogen sulfide is discovered in the fluid inside the human knee joint (synovial fluid). Scientists from the Peninsula Medical School and rheumatologists at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust in Exeter claim that this hydrogen sulfide can protect against inflammation.

This protective fluid is believed to decrease friction between the cartilage of joints during movement. The study included patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and healthy individuals. The investigators compared H2S in blood samples and knee-joint synovial fluid from these patients. It was found that patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis had higher concentrations of H2S in their synovial fluid than controls. Also fourfold higher levels were supposedly noted in blood samples of these patients.

“Chronic inflammatory diseases are by their very nature debilitating, and current pharmaceutical interventions can occasionally exacerbate patients’ discomfort – traditional anti-inflammatory drugs are very potent and safe, but they can sometimes damage the stomach lining in some individuals leading to further complications. By identifying a clear link between levels of H2S in synovial fluid and inflammation we can apply our earlier synthesis of a new molecule to control the delivery of H2S more effectively, we leave the way open for the development of H2S-based therapies that provide the benefits of traditional anti-inflammatory drugs without their unpleasant side effects,” added Dr. Matt Whiteman, who led the study from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter.

The scientists linked higher H2S levels with disease activity and lowered counts of inflammatory cells. So H2S seems to be a unique mediator developed by the body for regulating inflammation. Having demonstrated the presence of H2S in the synovial fluid of joints, experts claim it as a novel study. The findings may open new doors for ascertaining the role of H2S as a therapeutic and possibly ‘natural’ option for patients with chronic inflammatory diseases.

Dr. Whiteman explained, “We are only just starting to unravel what H2S does in the body and how to manipulate it. Since H2S is naturally produced in our bodies by enzymes which use predominantly sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine, methionine and homocysteine, it may be possible to manipulate the activity of these enzymes to increase their activity, possibly by dietary means, to boost the body’s ability to deal with inflammation and tissue damage. ”

The study highlights the possible association shared between levels of H2S in synovial fluid and inflammation in joints. Previously investigators had supposedly revealed a molecule that can release H2S safely. The study results can seemingly help affirm appropriate H2S-based therapeutic intervention treating human chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Further investigations flooding light on an accurate therapeutic intervention can be conducted.

The study is published in the current issue of the prestigious Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.