Many diseases are caused by oxidative stress that is persisting for a long time. Oxidative stress can cause serious damage to tissues. Although it is important to reduce this oxidative damage use of conventional antioxidants have been without much success. In the year 2007 scientific community discovered the molecular hydrogen as a novel anti-oxidant in treating and preventing diseases.
What are cardiovascular diseases?
Cardiovascular disease is a broad term used for a range of diseases involving the heart and circulatory system.
A myocardial infarction occurs when a blood clot or an atherosclerotic plaque blocks coronary arteries which supply a special part of the heart muscle. This leads to death of muscle cells. There are drugs which can dissolve this clot and lead to reperfusion of the tissues. But if it occurs, the sudden build up of oxidative stress can also damage the heart muscle leading to so called ischemia reperfusion injury. The same mechanism can happen to the brain in case of a stroke, causes to the release of reactive oxygen species.
How does hydrogen help in heart diseases?
Scientists have studied the effects of molecular hydrogen on heart and brain in many researches. Hydrogen has been used in cardiac arrest experiments in animals. To adequately resuscitated rats was given hydrogen to be inhaled for one group and not for the other. The rats with hydrogen inhalation had increased survival rate, good neurological outcome and reduction of histological changes when compared to rats who didn’t inhale hydrogen gas.
Hydrogen is a potent anti-oxidant and it can scavenge oxygen free radicals. The beneficial effect shown in this study can be attributed this property of hydrogen.
There have been several other studies done regarding cardiac arrest. When hydrogen was administered intraperitoneally in rabbits with cardiac arrest, it also improved the survival rates and neurological outcome with reduced injury and death to neurons.
In another study by rats, hydrogen given intravenous improved the outcome after cardiac arrest. The researchers speculated this effect was not only due to its anti-oxidative property but also due to other less well known properties such as anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory properties. As these effects show great promise, it could be used in future emergency services, so that not only oxygen but also hydrogen (Browns Gas) would be given at the same time in emergency situations.
A human study worth mentioning was made in 2017. In this randomized controlled study 50 patients with cerebral infarction in an acute stage with mild- to moderate-severity were involved: 25 of them were given 3% hydrogen gas for inhalation (one hour twice a day) and 25 were in the control group without hydrogen inhalation. Regularly performed MRI controls of the patients had shown that the severity of pathological changes in the infarction site of the brain was much less and more quickly near-normalized in the hydrogen group compared with the control group. Furthermore the physical therapy evaluation was judged by the so called Barthes Index, a method for assessing the everyday capabilities of the patients. It improved significantly in the hydrogen group. Hydrogen treatment was safe in application. The researcher confirmed the therapy with hydrogen gas a potential for widespread and general application.
Cardio pulmonary bypass is a surgical procedure done to patients with blocked vessels. When hydrogen gas was administered after bypass surgery in a rat model, hydrogen could reduce the inflammatory mediators such as cytokines. This anti-inflammatory effect could be used as a novel therapy in the future after bypass surgery.
The effects of hydrogen were also researched in rats after a myocardial infarction. It greatly improved the left heart function while reducing the infarct size and improved the function. Hydrogen gas also prevented left ventricular remodeling (the process of alteration of ventricular size, shape and function) after myocardial infarction.
In a pig model, the researchers were able to reduce the infarct size by inhaling 2% oxygen. In order to avoid ischemia and reperfusion injury, post conditioning needs to be done carefully. When hydrogen was given, infarct size reduced along with apoptotic index. The scientists thought this effect was due to down regulation of Akt and GSK3β in myocardial tissue.
Considering all these applications in cardiovascular diseases, hydrogen can be considered a novel drug which has great potential in the future not least in emergency medicine.
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