SASKATOON, SK, Oct. 24 /CNW/ - An international research team, with
scientists from the University of Saskatchewan, has discovered that a gas
produced in blood vessels regulates and lowers blood pressure.
The team's findings, based on research in mice, may one day be used to
design drug therapies for controlling high blood pressure in humans.
In a study published today in Science, the U of S research team and
colleagues from Lakehead University and Johns Hopkins University found that
hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S), commonly known as the gas with a 'rotten egg' smell,
can regulate blood pressure levels by relaxing blood vessels.
"This groundbreaking work is the result of five years of intensive
research that began at the U of S," says U of S pharmacologist Dr. Lingyun
(Lily) Wu, a corresponding author on the paper.
Based on a study conducted in 2001 by former U of S physiology professor
Dr. Rui Wang, the team of scientists suspected that H2S could play a role in
blood pressure regulation. The U of S was the first to find where H(2)S is
produced in the cardiovascular system.
Building on the foundation laid by this preliminary research, Dr. Wu and
her team worked with Dr. Wang to genetically alter lab mice by removing the
enzyme responsible for regulating H(2)S.
The scientists discovered that the altered mice, which had lower than
normal levels of H(2)S, experienced 15 to 20 per cent increases in blood
pressure, similar to hypertension in humans.
"Establishing at the U of S a mouse colony that lacks a specific enzyme
made this discovery possible," says Dr. Wu.
Though the study was conducted on mice, it could prove to be an important
finding for human health.
"Now that we know hydrogen sulfide's role in regulating blood pressure,
it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an
alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension," says Johns
Hopkins neuroscientist Dr. Solomon Snyder, a corresponding author of the
As a molecular messenger, or gasotransmitter, H(2)S functions in a
similar way to chemical signals such as nitric oxide, dopamine, and
acetylcholine, which transmit signals between nerve cells and stimulate or
slow down mind-brain activities.
"It's difficult to overestimate the biological importance of hydrogen
sulfide or its implications in hypertension as well as diabetes and
neurodegenerative diseases," says Dr. Wang, now vice-president of research at
Lakehead University. "Most human diseases probably have something to do with
To date, only two other gaseous molecules in the body have been found to
modulate physiological functions. One is nitric oxide, which was also found to
relax blood vessels, the discovery of which led to a Nobel Prize.
This research project was supported by grants from the Canadian
Institutes of Health Research and the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Wu is
also funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan. She has
published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers on insulin resistance,
hypertension management, and gasotransmitter research.
Authors on the paper are Guangdong Yang, Lingyun Wu, Bo Jiang, Wei Yang,
Jiansong Qi, Kun Cao, Qing Meng, all of the U of S; Rui Wang and Shengming
Zhang of Lakehead University; and Asif K. Mustafa, Weitong Mu and Solomon
Snyder, all of Johns Hopkins University.
For the full paper, visit
About U of S (www.usask.ca): The University of Saskatchewan is one of the
leading medical doctoral universities in Canada. With 58 degrees, diplomas and
certificates in over 100 areas of study, the university is uniquely positioned
in the areas of human, animal and plant studies. World-class research
facilities, renowned faculty and award-winning students make the U of S a
leader in post-secondary education.
For further information:
For further information: or to arrange an interview, contact: Cameron
Zimmer, University of Saskatchewan Research Communications, (306) 966-2427,