Friday, December 07, 2007

A Breath of Poisonous Gas

Caenorhabditis elegans, is a free living nematode, which is about 1mm in length, lives in temperate soil environments. Research into the molecular and developmental biology of C. elegans was begun in 1974 by Sydney Brenner and it has since been used extensively as a model organism. It’s entire genetic code has been sequenced, and still widely used for research purposes. These worms do not have a long life time. Each worm is only expected to live for few weeks. Research has proven that their life span can be increased dramatically if they live in an environment of atmosphere with small quantities of hydrogen sulfide which is thought to be a poisonous gas in general. It is seen through experiment that if the worm is in about a 50 ppm concentration of this gas, its life span can be increased as high as 10 days or more.

Also according to biologist Mark Roth of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute, they seem to be able to withstand higher temperatures than animals that did not have hydrogen sulfide and also are known to live longer than them. "They lived 70 percent longer, which is considerably longer. If you add 70 percent to your own life that's a lot." said Mark Roth. Now the next important question that comes to mind is how useful is this for human life and if it has any affect on humans, this article immediately states that is no current research or any reason to believe that hydrogen sulfide has the same effect on humans. Research by the same team of Mark Roth and Dana Miller proved that this has an effect on mice, they go into a sort of suspended animation state.

Roth and his colleagues are currently researching the safety of low concentrations of the gas in humans in order to assess its potential to place removed organs into a state of suspended animation for longer,, which will prove to be a better storage prior to transplant or even to put critically injured patients into the state to enable more time for lifesaving interventions. This remains unproved at the moment. On the contrary, with the C.elegans the worms thrived instead of entering this so called suspended animation state. When they were put in very high temperatures like 95 degrees Fahrenheit the worms with more sulfurous gas in them lived up to eight times longer than the ones that did not.

Also biologists at this point are very unsure of the biological reasoning behind this unusual effect. But one very interesting discovery in C.elegans they noticed is that this advantage they have is genetically linked. When a certain gene namely the sir-2.1 is removed from these worms they seem to have lost this effect. This gene is therefore known to be linked to long life. "It's a demonstration of the requirement or need for that gene product to have sulfide work its magic," says Roth. Finally the objective of this sort o research is to better understand this slight advantage the C.elegans have and how this can be incorporated into humans and other living beings. Historically it is believed that the H2S gas has always seemed to have natural healing effects.


Posted by: Swetha Raghavan (11)


At 3:19 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is quite the interesting topic. I wonder where further research will lead. This sir-2.1 gene is extremely fascinating itself. I wonder what the implications would be of splicing this sir-2.1 gene in other organisms combined with the addition of the H2S gas would lead to. Could we perhaps extend other organisms lives longer by as much as 70%? Very interesting, good work!

Posted by Antonio Hernandez (11)

At 8:30 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This article is very interesting in my lab we work with this gene all the things i have read about this gene had to do with calorie restriction in various animals and how that helped in longevity. I am surprised that poisonous gas also has this reaction on the animals. Great article!!!

Posted by: Balkrishna Gantyala


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