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Open Access Commentary

Is methane a new therapeutic gas?

Wenwu Liu1, Dong Wang1, Hengyi Tao12 and XueJun Sun13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Diving Medicine, Second Military Medical University, 800 Xiangyin Road, Shanghai 200433, P.R. China

2 Institute of Nautical Medicine, Nantong University, Jiangsu, 226019, P.R. China

3 Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA 92354, USA

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Medical Gas Research 2012, 2:25  doi:10.1186/2045-9912-2-25

Published: 25 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Methane is an attractive fuel. Biologically, methanogens in the colon can use carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce methane as a by-product. It was previously considered that methane is not utilized by humans. However, in a recent study, results demonstrated that methane could exert anti-inflammatory effects in a dog small intestinal ischemia-reperfusion model.

Point of view

Actually, the bioactivity of methane has been investigated in gastrointestinal diseases, but the exact mechanism underlying the anti-inflammatory effects is required to be further elucidated. Methane can cross the membrane and is easy to collect due to its abundance in natural gas. Although methane is flammable, saline rich in methane can be prepared for clinical use. These seem to be good news in application of methane as a therapeutic gas.

Conclusion

Several problems should be resolved before its wide application in clinical practice.

Keywords:
Methane; Anti-inflammation; Therapeutic gas; Methanogen