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Introduction to Molecular Hydrogen (2020)

In recent years, Hydrogen Therapy has become more of a topic of interest due to its therapeutic effect. This mostly originated from cellular research into mitochondrial health. There has been much in terms of anecdotal accounts regarding its efficacy with extraordinary claims such as chronic pain relief and alleviation of the symptoms caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, acute lung damage caused by Lupus or pulmonary fibrosis. Further to this, there have been studies with regards to the validity of Molecular Hydrogen Therapy, as a co-treatment method for malignant diseases.


Firstly, it is important to examine what hydrogen is and the role it plays on the body. Hydrogen (H) is the first and most common chemical element, consisting of one proton and one electron. It is the lightest element, which predominantly exists in a gaseous state. Due to its tiny size hydrogen is able to penetrate any organ and tissue in the human body including blood-brain barrier. It is a part of water (H2O), which is important for the hydration of cells in the human body. Hydrogen dual antioxidation function (direct and indirect) contributes to optimising almost all human organism physiological processes. Further to this, Hydrogen aids in the lubrication of the joints as well as helping with the transportation of nutrients to different parts of the body whilst helping to maintain the immune system.


Over the last decade, hundreds of studies have been conducted into molecular hydrogen and its applications on the human body as a form of therapy against a wide range of diseases. In short, it has been shown to have a positive effect on over 170 human disease models, such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and metabolic syndromes; it has no cytotoxic effects. There have been no toxicities or harm effects to the body yet reported, however further research must be conducted. 

Several studies have shown molecular hydrogen to have an anti-oxidative effect, where it is able to reduce oxidative stress by eliminating free radicals. It is selective in that it is able to target and prevent the harmful effects of these free radicals, which cause damage to the cells. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory in the body, which can be caused by oxidative stress, by selectively neutralising and removing the specific reactive oxygen species causing the inflammation. It is also anti-apoptotic, meaning that it aids and promotes the survival of cells; it can also inhibit unhealthy cell proliferation, meaning that it is able to prevent those types of cells from rapidly spreading and increasing. 


Molecular hydrogen is unique as an antioxidant because it is an exceptionally small molecule that can dissipate throughout the body and cells; it can rapidly diffuse itself across the cellular membranes. Molecular hydrogen selectively targets harmful free radicals, such as the hydroxyl radical, neutralises them into water. It does not react with other reactive oxygen species (ROS), which play physiologically beneficial roles in the cell, such as hydrogen peroxide, which the immune system uses to help to kill bacteria. Free radicals have missing electrons, which then take electrons from healthy cells, which causes damage and oxidation to them. Molecular hydrogen (H2) carries 2 electrons and can give them to the free radicals to neutralise them and their negative effects, which protects the healthy cells.


Figure 1 Molecular Hydrogen and Free Radicals

As such, what this means for the human body can show effects of anti-ageing, scar tissue elimination, blood pressure regulation, immune system regulation, increased muscular endurance, reduced anxiety as well as pain relief. To reap the benefits, molecular hydrogen can be drank as hydroxy-infused water, inhaled as a gas or topically applied to the skin.


Due to its efficacy in combating against debilitating conditions whilst improving overall quality of life, this has become an exceptionally well used form of therapy in Asia, specifically in Japan and China.

There has been some exciting updates in terms of the efficacy of molecular hydrogen also against COVID-19 , specifically in clinical trials in China, lead by Professor NanShan Zhong (2020), who lead the fight against SARS in 2003. Thus far, there have been positive results in ameliorating dyspnea and alleviating respiratory issues. China is using a device that produces 67% hydrogen and 33% oxygen. Read more here.

The world's top heart surgeon, Professor Steve Westaby (2020):


"Clinicians in Wuhan found the secretions to be particularly viscous and difficult to aspirate. This contributed to failure to wean from mechanical ventilation and the need for ECMO. N-acetylcysteine was used to reduce the viscosity of the mucus plugs but severely dyspnoeic patients responded better to inhalation of hydroxy gas (a hydrogen/oxygen mixture), which reduces respiratory exertion in a manner similar to old fashioned helium inhalation (Figure 5).5 Hydrogen also acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-apoptotic agent which appears to help protect the respiratory cells under attack. Hydrogen is known to downregulate the inflammatory cytokines (including the interleukins and tumour necrosis factor alpha) that are said to play a pivotal role in the so-called ‘cytokine storm’ of coronavirus pneumonia. A multicentre randomised controlled trial investigating the efficacy and safety of hydrogen inhalation in the treatment of coronavirus pneumonia is currently underway in Chinese critical care patients.

With time it became clear that lung compliance and gas transfer are different from classical adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Very low oxygen saturation levels can be experienced in the absence of hypercapnia, tachycardia or significant deterioration in cerebral function. While the knee jerk response is to intubate and ventilate for hypoxia, the preserved lung compliance allows some patients to continue with spontaneous respiration supported by non-invasive continuous positive airways pressure or inhalation of hydroxy gas which relieves dyspnoea. In contrast, around 70% of patients committed to prolonged invasive ventilation currently die partly because of the adverse consequences of the process itself. Profound hypoxia and myocardial depression are better addressed by ECMO, since positive pressure ventilation also reduces venous return and cardiac output. Such fine clinical judgments require specialist medical teams. Hence my scepticism surrounding pop-up mega intensive care units equipped with basic mass-produced ventilators. So is ventilation saving patients? With the limited survival achieved largely in younger and fitter patients, it might be argued that they would also have survived with the non-invasive route and a higher threshold for positive pressure ventilation. These new strategies are being learned as the pandemic evolves."


During my time working in this area of research, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Steve Westaby himself regarding the operation of molecular hydrogen devices as well as its applications.

Click on the link to read the full bulletin in the Royal College of Surgeons by Professor Westaby.

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