Molecular Hydrogen

Research into Molecular Hydrogen (i.e. H2 gas) is gaining significant attention from academic researchers, medical doctors, and physicians around the world for its recently reported therapeutic potential by the Molecular Hydrogen Istitute and its lead spokesman Tyler Lebaron.  One of the earliest publications on hydrogen as a medical gas was in 1975, by Dole and colleagues from Baylor University and Texas A&M.  They reported in the journal Science that hyperbaric (8 atm) hydrogen therapy was effective at reducing melanoma tumors in mice.  However, the interest in hydrogen therapy only recently began after 2007, when it was demonstrated that administration of hydrogen gas via inhalation (at levels below the flammability limit of 4.6%) or ingestion of an aqueous-solution containing dissolved hydrogen, could also exert therapeutic biological effects. These findings suggest hydrogen has immediate medical and clinical applications.

Research on hydrogen is still in its infancy with only around 1,000 Peer-Reviewed studies and 1,600 researchers, but these studies clearly suggest that hydrogen has therapeutic potential in over 170 different human and animal disease models, with positive effects in essentially every organ of the human body.  Technically speaking hydrogen appears to provide these benefits via modulating signal transduction, protein phosphorylation, and gene expressions and in layman’s terms stimulates our own glutathione, elevates nitric oxide, stimulates cellular electric charge thereby increasing cellular hydration and expelling of toxins that contribute to so many autoimmune disorders and general inflammation, as well as targets and destroys the worst free radical known as the Hydroxyl. 

From an evolutionary perspective it may not be strange that hydrogen exerts a biological effect.  In addition to its role in the origins of the universe, hydrogen was also involved in the genesis of life and played an active role in lifeform evolution of eukaryotes (organisms whose cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes). Over the millennia of evolution, plants and animals have developed a mutualistic relationship with hydrogen-producing bacteria resulting in basal levels of molecular hydrogen in eukaryotic systems. This constant exposure to molecular hydrogen may have conserved the original targets of hydrogen, as can be extrapolated by genetic remnants of hydrogenase enzymes in higher eukaryotes.  Alternatively, but not exclusively, eukaryotes may have developed sensitivity to molecular hydrogen over the millions of years of evolution.

Hydrogen and Immediate Medical Applications

Hydrogen as a medical gas is growing because it has immediate medical applications to help with many of the current health crises,  Dixon and colleagues of Loma-Linda University reported that hydrogen has potential to help with the top 8 out of 10 disease-causing fatalities as listed by the Centers of Disease Control.  Dr. Banks, from the VA/U of Washington, reported that ingestion of hydrogen-rich water was protective against neurodegenerative changes induced by traumatic brain injury in mice. Their results show that hydrogen administration reduced brain edema, blocked pathological tau expression, and maintained ATP levels. This and other studies have profound effects for events where brain injury (e.g. concussion, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, etc.) is a common occurrence. People report dramatic and rapid pain and inflammation relief and normalization of glucose and cholesterol levels.  Hydrogen has been proven safe to administer without restrictions and primarily helps bring the cell/organs back to homeostasis without any side effects.

Human Research

Although the research on hydrogen looks promising in the cell or animal models, more long-term clinical trials are required to confirm its efficacy in humans. There are only a total of 40 human studies; few are in a double-blinded placebo controlled randomized fashion with sufficient subject numbers. A few of these clinical studies suggest that ingestion of hydrogen-rich water was beneficial for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia. Another 1-year placebo-control clinical study suggested that hydrogen-rich water is beneficial for Parkinson’s disease, while other clinical studies suggest significant benefits for rheumatoid arthritis, mitochondrial dysfunction, exercise performance, athletic recovery time, wound healing, reductions of oxidative stress from chronic hepatitis B, improvements to blood flow, and periodontitis, in dialysis, and also the quality of life in patients receiving radiotherapy for tumors and others.

There have been an additional 15+ human studies completed with promising results, which are in the process of manuscript preparation and publication through the peer-reviewed process. More human studies are required to determine proper dosage, timing, method of administration, and for which diseases, and potentially genotypes, hydrogen is most effective. Hydrogen is still in its infancy, and more data is required before we can scientifically claim any real benefit, but the preliminary data is intriguing. The research on disease models, mechanisms of action, and clinical studies are particularly relevant because the high safety profile of molecular hydrogen make it a superior choice .

Safety

Hydrogen is naturally produced by intestinal flora upon digestion of fibers. A study from the University of Florida and the Forsythe Institute of Boston, Massachusetts confirmed that hydrogen produced from bacteria exerted therapeutic effects. They found that reconstitution of intestinal microbiota with H2-producing E. coli, but not H2-deficient mutant E. coli, was protective against Concanvalin A-induced hepatitis. Other studies also show that bacterially produced hydrogen from acarbose administration is therapeutic. Perhaps this helps explain why a large clinical trial from the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found significant reductions in cardiovascular events by those taking the hydrogen-producing acarbose drug. These studies not only suggest the therapeutic action of molecular hydrogen, but also demonstrate its high safety profile. Hydrogen is very natural to our bodies, as we are exposed to it on a daily basis as a result of normal bacterial metabolism. Additionally, hydrogen gas has also been used in deep sea diving since the 1940s to prevent decompression sickness. Hundreds of human studies for deep sea diving have shown inhalation of hydrogen gas, at orders of magnitude greater than what is needed for therapeutic use, is well-tolerated by the body with no chronic toxic effects. In some people, however, it is reported that hydrogen may result in loose stools, and in rare cases with diabetics, hypoglycemia, which is controlled by reducing the level of insulin administered. The hundreds of studies on hydrogen from bacterial production, deep sea diving, and recent medical applications have not revealed any direct noxious side effects of hydrogen administration at biologically therapeutic levels. Such a high safety profile may be considered paradoxical because chemotherapeutic agents that exert biological effects should have both beneficial and noxious effects depending on dosage, timing, location, duration, etc. However, such noxious effects have yet to be reported for hydrogen. However, perhaps the noxious effects are so transient and mild that they are masked by the beneficial effects, or are even what mediate the beneficial effects via hormetic pathways.  It is uncommon to find a treatment that has both a high therapeutic potential and a high safety profile; hydrogen appears to fit this combination.