London: British researchers at University of Exeter have designed a new compound that will slowly deliver hydrogen sulfide - well-known as a foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence - to treat stressed cells and make them stay alive.
The pungent gas has potential health benefits in a range of issues, from diabetes to stroke, heart attacks and dementia.
When cells become stressed by disease, they draw in enzymes to generate minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide.
This keeps the mitochondria ticking over and allows cells to live.
If this does not happen, cells die and lose the ability to regulate survival and control inflammation.
"We have exploited this natural process by making a compound called AP39, that slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria," said professor Matt Whiteman from University of Exeter's medical school.
The results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive.
"The gas is naturally produced in the body and could, in fact, be a healthcare hero with have significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases," added Mark Wood from University of Exeter.
For example, in models of cardiovascular disease, research shows that more than 80 percent of the powerhouse mitochondria cells survive if AP39 is administered.
The study was published in the journal Medicinal Chemistry Communications.