An interesting conversation can instantly make a turn for the worst when bad breath hops into the scene. We’ve all had our share of bad experiences whether we were more or less forced to tolerate the repulsive stench of bad breath or we had a case of bad breath ourselves. Scientists at Nippon Dental University, however, have found that the gaseous compound responsible for bad breath has an active role in differentiating stem cells that may grow into liver cells. Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are in dire need of a liver transplant, and growing new livers out of stem cells is far more lucrative than relaying on donors.

The hydrogen sulfide compound (H2S) has a smell that can’t be better described like the one given off by rotten eggs and is toxic. In high doses it can even kill a man. We all produce hydrogen sulfide inside our body and have a natural limited resistance to the compound. Some people produce more of the substance, increasing the concentration, and thus leading to the repulsive bad breath we all loath. Don’t worry, hydrogen sulfide even in the worst of bad breaths can’t literary kill you, though I’m willing to bet there had been some people faced with dire suicidal thoughts amidst all the anguish.

Here’s where it can save lives though. Scientists have known for a while that dental pulp, a substance which can be found in every human tooth, contains stem cells. Differentiating stem cells to turn into any desired cell is extremely difficult will high failure rates, however the Japanese researchers have found that by exposing the dental pulp stem cells to a small dose of hydrogen sulfide, the stem cells turned into liver cells at a higher rate. Stem cells think differently of rotten eggs, apparently.

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In the U.S. alone, the fatality rates due to hepatitis C than AIDS has significantly increased during the past years, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Over the years, the disease damages the liver, and can eventually cause cirrhosis or liver cancer. Liver transplants are indispensable for mid to late stage patients, and a successful large scale stem cell metamorphosis into the much needed, life saving new livers would come as godsend more thousands in suffering.

Here’s to stinky breath!

The researchers’ findings were published in Journal of Breath Research.

source: Science Friday