It seems that one of the intriguing potential beneficial applications of hydrogen sulfide-induced torpor would emerge if it turns out that cancer cells are less sensitive to the gas than healthy cells are. If we could turn down the metabolic activity of normal tissue, reducing its sensitivity to chemotherapeutic drugs, while the cancer cells remained vulnerable, chemotherapy would simultaneously become less toxic and more effective.

Starfinder Stanley
Oakland, Calif.

If this ability is indeed an ancient adaptation, it might explain how the precursors of small mammals, reptiles, and birds could have survived the Cretaceous and Permian extinctions. Hydrogen sulfide would have been a fairly ubiquitous by-product of the massive die-off of vegetation.

James M. Kelly
East Sandwich, Mass.

From the Nature Index

Paid Content