The gas compound that causes bad breath and flatulence (hydrogen sulphide (H2S)), could fuel the growth of liver stem cells, Japanese scientists have discovered.
Researchers from the Nippon Dental University in Japan discovered that the gas, notorious for its egg-like stench, can help teeth stem cells transform into liver stem cells.
They hope their findings could lead to damaged liver cells being repaired using regenerated ones derived from tooth pulp.
Experts used the H2S gas to enhance the growth of stem cells from one part of the body to another - in this case, dental pulp (the middle part of the tooth made of tissue and cells) was converted into liver stem cells.
The teeth cells were taken from a group of dental patients undergoing routine tooth extractions and were then separated into two groups. One group of cells was incubated in a H2S chamber and the other acted as a control.
The stem cells were analysed after three, six and nice days to track their transformation into liver cells. They also tested their ability to function like liver cells.
Researchers say they experienced an increased population of liver stem cells, although the study did not reveal how many were made. The experts claim the H2S gas boosted the purity of the stem cells, causing them to convert at a rapid speed.
"High purity means there are less 'wrong cells' that are being differentiated to other tissues, or remaining as stem cells,” says lead author Dr Ken Yaegaki, reports the Press Association.
"Moreover, these facts suggest that patients undergoing transplantation with the hepatic (liver) cells may have almost no possibility of developing teratomas (tumours) or cancers.
"Until now, nobody has produced the protocol to regenerate such a huge number of hepatic cells for human transplantation.
"Compared to the traditional method of using foetal bovine serum to produce the cells, our method is productive and, most importantly, safe."
Researchers are hoping their findings could help repair damaged liver cells using regenerated ones derived from tooth pulp, however there were questions on the number of dental stem cells that could be harvested.
The findings were published in the Journal of Breath Research.
This is not the first time hydrogen sulphide gas has been cited as having health benefits. In 2008, scientists from the John Hopkins University found that small amounts of the chemical relaxes blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.
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