The compound responsible for the smell of rotten eggs could be a new way to treat erectile dysfunction, based on an early study in rats by a team featuring the UCLA Nobel laureate pharmacologist, Louis Ignarro.
Ignarro’s team injected the penile smooth-muscle of rats with hydrogen sulfide, which relaxed them, allowing more blood to flow in — just like Viagra.
“In the future, that could help humans have an erection,” said Jim Cummings, a urologist at St. Louis University and expert in erectile dysfunction, who was not involved in the new research.
Though it smells extremely bad, hydrogen sulfide is a bizarre chemical that has some strange and unexpected effects on living things. In mice, it’s been shown to induce a state like “suspended animation” while other scientists say that H2S was responsible for a mass extinction on Earth several hundred million years ago. It could eventually help soldiers survive blood loss resulting from war injuries.
To turn this animal research into a human therapy will likely take years, if not decades. The goal would probably be to develop a formulation that could be taken as a pill, just like Viagra, Cummings said.
“What I would foresee is not that we’d inject the gas into our own penises, we’d look for a drug that would make you generate more of this compound in your own tissues,” he said.