Scientific Studies

Brain and Neurodegeneration

Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the Universe, but is seldom regarded as a therapeutic agent. Recent evidence has shown that hydrogen is a potent antioxidative, antiapoptotic and anti-inflammatory agent and so may have potential medical applications in cells, tissues and organs. There are several methods to administer hydrogen, such as inhalation of hydrogen gas, aerosol inhalation of a hydrogen-rich solution, drinking hydrogen dissolved in water, injecting hydrogen-rich saline (HRS) and taking a hydrogen bath. Drinking hydrogen solution (saline/pure water/other solutions saturated with hydrogen) may be more practical in daily life and more suitable for daily consumption. This review summarizes the findings of recent studies on the use of hydrogen in emergency and critical care medicine using different disease models.


Hydrogen, a popular antioxidant gas, can selectively reduce cytotoxic oxygen radicals and has been found to protect against ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury of multiple organs. Acute neuronal death during I/R has been attributed to loss of mitochondrial permeability transition coupled with mitochondrial dysfunction. This study was designed to investigate the potential therapeutic effect of hydrogen-rich saline on neuronal mitochondrial injury from global cerebral I/R in rats.


We used a four-vessel occlusion model of global cerebral ischemia and reperfusion, with Sprague-Dawley rats. The rats were divided randomly into six groups (n = 90): sham (group S), I/R (group I/R), normal saline (group NS), atractyloside (group A), hydrogen-rich saline (group H), and hydrogen-rich saline + atractyloside (group HA). In groups H and HA, intraperitoneal hydrogen-rich saline (5 mL/kg) was injected immediately after reperfusion, whereas the equal volume of NS was injected in the other four groups. In groups A and HA, atractyloside (15 μL) was intracerebroventricularly injected 10 min before reperfusion, whereas groups NS and H received equal NS. The mitochondrial permeability transition pore opening and mitochondrial membrane potential were measured by spectrophotometry. Cytochrome c protein expression in the mitochondria and cytoplasm was detected by western blot. The hippocampus mitochondria ultrastructure was examined with transmission electron microscope. The histologic damage in hippocampus was assessed by hematoxylin and eosin staining.


Hydrogen-rich saline treatment significantly improved the amount of surviving cells(P ≤ 0.05). Furthermore, hydrogen-rich saline not only reduced tissue damage, the degree of mitochondrial swelling, and the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential but also preserved the mitochondrial cytochrome c content (P ≤ 0.05).


Our study showed that hydrogen-rich saline was able to attenuate neuronal I/R injury, probably by protecting mitochondrial function in rats.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in its various forms has emerged as a major problem for modern society. Acute TBI can transform into a chronic condition and be a risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, probably through induction of oxidative stress and neuroinflammation. Here, we examined the ability of the antioxidant molecular hydrogen given in drinking water (molecular hydrogen water; mHW) to alter the acute changes induced by controlled cortical impact (CCI), a commonly used experimental model of TBI. We found that mHW reversed CCI-induced edema by about half, completely blocked pathological tau expression, accentuated an early increase seen in several cytokines but attenuated that increase by day 7, reversed changes seen in the protein levels of aquaporin-4, HIF-1, MMP-2, and MMP-9, but not for amyloid beta peptide 1-40 or 1-42. Treatment with mHW also reversed the increase seen 4 h after CCI in gene expression related to oxidation/carbohydrate metabolism, cytokine release, leukocyte or cell migration, cytokine transport, ATP and nucleotide binding. Finally, we found that mHW preserved or increased ATP levels and propose a new mechanism for mHW, that of ATP production through the Jagendorf reaction. These results show that molecular hydrogen given in drinking water reverses many of the sequelae of CCI and suggests that it could be an easily administered, highly effective treatment for TBI.

Hydrogen (H2) has been reported to neutralize toxic reactive oxygen species. Oxidative stress is an important mechanism of neuronal damage after perinatal asphyxia. We examined whether 2.1% H2-supplemented room air (H2-RA) ventilation would preserve cerebrovascular reactivity (CR) and brain morphology after asphyxia/reventilation (A/R) in newborn pigs. Anesthetized, ventilated piglets were assigned to one of the following groups: A/R with RA or H2-RA ventilation (A/R-RA and A/R-H2-RA; n = 8 and 7, respectively) and respective time control groups (n = 9 and 7). Asphyxia was induced by suspending ventilation for 10 min, followed by reventilation with the respective gases for 4 h. After euthanasia, the brains were processed for neuropathological examination. Pial arteriolar diameter changes to graded hypercapnia (5-10% CO2 inhalation), and NMDA (10(-4) M) were determined using the closed cranial window/intravital microscopy before and 1 h after asphyxia. Neuropathology revealed that H2-RA ventilation significantly reduced neuronal injury induced by A/R in virtually all examined brain regions including the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum, and the brainstem. Furthermore, H2-RA ventilation significantly increased CR to hypercapnia after A/R (% vasodilation was 23 ± 4% versus 41 ± 9%, p ≤ 0.05). H2-RA ventilation did not affect reactive oxygen species-dependent CR to NMDA. In summary, H2-RA could be a promising approach to reduce the neurologic deficits after perinatal asphyxia.