And it seemed so promising…

Or perhaps I should call this “Friday Weird Science…NOT!” Seriously, I’m pissed. Because when Scicurious sees a headline like this:
The Stink in Farts Controls Blood Pressure
she thinks “SWEET! This will be awesome!” and starts hunting around for the paper. The original article itself was less promising than hoped, but wishful thinking was going strong here. And imagine her surprise and dismay when the real title of the article turned out to be THIS:
H2S as a Physiologic Vasorelaxant: Hypertension in Mice with Deletion of Cystathionine -Lyase
Guangdong Yang, Lingyun Wu, Bo Jiang, Wei Yang, Jiansong Qi, Kun Cao, Qinghe Meng, Asif K. Mustafa, Weitong Mu, Shengming Zhang, Solomon H. Snyder, and Rui Wang
Science 24 October 2008: 587-590.
But you know what, it’s still got weird science correlates. And so it shall be blogged! Once more, dear friends, into the breach! He that outlives this post, and comes safe from the internet, will stand a’tiptoe when this blog is named, and rouse him in the name of SCIENCE!

And besides, I get to talk about gas.
My friend Meg recently pointed me toward the site “Everything you wanted to know about farts, but were afraid to ask“. I found it incredibly amusing and useful for things such as trivia and good stories. My personal favorite quote:

There is a company called Fartypants that sells underwear designed to absorb the odor of farts. If you should be caught without your Fartypants, another ploy is to blame the dog or cat, if one should be present, or complain about how the wind must be blowing from the direction of the paper mill.

For those who really want to know: the Thunder Pants, relieve the pain without the shame! Increase your confidence!
Heck, that deserves a picture:
(Ok, that’s not REALLY what they look like. But it’s still really funny. Via gizmodo).
And apparently you really CAN light a fart!!! Someday when I’m feeling 10 again I must try this.
So anyway, some farts smell more than others. The ones that smell less are usually noisy, and result from air being swallowed on a daily basis, which apparently occurs more if you drink a lot of soda, are a nervous person, or chew with your mouth open. The smelly ones result from the gases produced by bacteria in your intestine. These are not unhappy bacteria, but symbiotic ones that help us digest foods we might not be able to on our own. Unfortunately for our social graces, these bacteria produce heat and sulfurous gases as part of there digestion, which leads to what people call “the silent but deadly” (my elderly cat was a MASTER of these).
Most people think they don’t really have much use for the hydrogen sulfide in gas, except to make life REALLY uncomfortable in elevators. But it turns out that hydrogen sulfide serves a very important function in the body.
So there are lots of messenger molecules in the body. Usually, I talk about dopamine, or serotonin, or acetylcholine. These are big molecules, with rings and amine groups and stuff. But more recently scientists have begun to find that small molecules can play a big role in regulating physiological processes as well. The big two example is NO, nitric oxide, which is an important messenger molecule, as well as being very important in regulating blood pressure (sometimes in older movies you’ll see old guys with bad hearts have to put NO tablets under their tongues). Carbon monoxide, or CO, has also been found to regulate important processes (yes, that IS what you die from when you trap yourself in the garage with your car exhaust like Audrey Hepburn tried to do in that one movie). Well now it’s been found that hydrogen sulfide (H2S) may be really important in regulating blood pressure.
The scientists in this study knocked the gene for the enzyme cystathionine gamma-lyase (CSE) out of a group of mice. This enzyme produces H2S as a byproduct. Without the ability to produce H2S, the mice ended up with much higher blood pressure than their wild type buddies. Not only that, their blood vessels were tougher and not as responsive to normal changes that would lower blood pressure.
So how do you take blood pressure in a mouse? A mouse can’t roll up its sleeve and give you its arm. Instead, we use tail-cuff. It’s pretty cute, you put a little round thingy on the mouse’s tail, and it measures blood pressure. Very non-invasive.
image012.jpg (via the mouse phenome database)
So if H2S regulates blood pressure and may reduce it, forget nitrogen oxide, when your blood pressure is through the roof, maybe the new prescription will be fart sniffing! Ewwww…seriously, though, this paper opens doors to exciting new pharmacotherapy ideas. However, I would hate to be on the treadmill behind someone who’s on H2S for their blood pressure. I thought those older guys who took fish oil and garlic were bad…
G. Yang, L. Wu, B. Jiang, W. Yang, J. Qi, K. Cao, Q. Meng, A. K. Mustafa, W. Mu, S. Zhang, S. H. Snyder, R. Wang (2008). H2S as a Physiologic Vasorelaxant: Hypertension in Mice with Deletion of Cystathionine -Lyase Science, 322 (5901), 587-590 DOI: 10.1126/science.1162667

2 Responses

  1. This makes a lot of sense to me intuitively, because I have hypertension, and my farts smell like roses with just a hint of cinnamon.

  2. So… if we eat more boiled eggs AND sniff our own farts we’ll be healthy? Or should I just feed them to my husband…

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