The evolution of molecular hydrogen: a noteworthy potential therapy with clinical significance

  • Studies on molecular hydrogen have evolved tremendously from its humble beginnings and have continued to change throughout the years.
  • Hydrogen is extremely unique since it has the capability to act at the cellular level.
  • Hydrogen is qualified to cross the blood brain barrier, to enter the mitochondria, and even has the ability to translocate to the nucleus under certain conditions.
  • Once in these ideal locations of the cell, previous studies have shown that hydrogen exerts antioxidant, anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory, and cytoprotective properties that are beneficial to the cell.
  • Hydrogen is most commonly applied as a gas, water, saline, and can be applied in a variety of other mediums.
  • There are also few side effects involving hydrogen, thus making hydrogen a perfect medical gas candidate for the convention of novel therapeutic strategies against cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, cancer, metabolic, and respiratory diseases and disorders.
  • Although hydrogen appears to be faultless at times, there still are several deficiencies or snares that need to be investigated by future studies.
  • This review article seeks to delve and comprehensively analyze the research and experiments that alludes to molecular hydrogen being a novel therapeutic treatment that medicine desperately needs.


Hydrogen has been shown to be an extremely useful element that has been used in a vast range of disciplines. Since its initial discovery, hydrogen has been effectively applied in a variety of combinations with other elements and different physical states. The role of hydrogen is constantly evolving from its humble beginnings in the chemistry field as a mysterious flammable gas, to its aeronautic applications in balloons, and its emerging role as a potential therapy in medicine (See Figure 1).

The first documented discovery of hydrogen was by Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus in 1520. Paracelsus unknowingly discovered a flammable gas by burning some metal with an acid and collecting the products (Royal Chemistry Society). After Paracelsus discovered this mysterious flammable gas, others replicated the process and began working with the gas. However, hydrogen gas never had an official or common name. It was not until 1783, that Lavoisier, who is often referred to as the modern father of chemistry, used the French word “hydrogene” to describe the gas (Royal Chemistry Society).

Medical Uses

In 2007, Ohsawa et al., published “Hydrogen acts as a therapeutic antioxidant by selectively reducing cytotoxic oxygen radicals” in Nature Medicine. Ohsawa et al., reported that hydrogen is able to react with cytotoxic oxygen radicals and protect against oxidative damage. These conclusions were made based upon experiments observing a rat model of focal ischemia and reperfusion. After ischemia was induced and reperfusion performed, it was observed that arterial blood contained elevated levels proportionate to the concentration of hydrogen that was inhaled. Also, it is suggested that the tissue was able to absorb hydrogen, since dissolved hydrogen was found at lower levels than the arterial blood. The study also suggests that hydrogen is able to prevent oxidative damage by reacting with the hydroxyl radical. This is important since the hydroxyl radical is believed to be the most dangerous oxygen species since there are no naturally occurring mechanisms to prevent its affects. As a result of the findings by Ohsawa et al., the convention of hydrogen has yet evolved. This publication has sparked many investigations concerning hydrogen as a selective reactive oxygen species scavenger and it its potential as an antioxidant therapy [2].

Content was extracted from:

The evolution of molecular hydrogen: a noteworthy potential therapy with clinical significance

Medical Gas Research volume 3, Article number: 10 (2013) 

Authors: Brandon J Dixon, vJiping Tang &  John H Zhang 

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