DOI: 10.3390/antiox12122062 ISSN: 2076-3921

Hydrogen: A Rising Star in Gas Medicine as a Mitochondria-Targeting Nutrient via Activating Keap1-Nrf2 Antioxidant System

Danyu Cheng, Jiangang Long, Lin Zhao, Jiankang Liu
  • Cell Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology

The gas molecules O2, NO, H2S, CO, and CH4, have been increasingly used for medical purposes. Other than these gas molecules, H2 is the smallest diatomic molecule in nature and has become a rising star in gas medicine in the past few decades. As a non-toxic and easily accessible gas, H2 has shown preventive and therapeutic effects on various diseases of the respiratory, cardiovascular, central nervous system, and other systems, but the mechanisms are still unclear and even controversial, especially the mechanism of H2 as a selective radical scavenger. Mitochondria are the main organelles regulating energy metabolism in living organisms as well as the main organelle of reactive oxygen species’ generation and targeting. We propose that the protective role of H2 may be mainly dependent on its unique ability to penetrate every aspect of cells to regulate mitochondrial homeostasis by activating the Keap1-Nrf2 phase II antioxidant system rather than its direct free radical scavenging activity. In this review, we summarize the protective effects and focus on the mechanism of H2 as a mitochondria-targeting nutrient by activating the Keap1-Nrf2 system in different disease models. In addition, we wish to provide a more rational theoretical support for the medical applications of hydrogen.

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