Nano-sized carbon materials can be used to treat Down syndrome


July 21, 2023

(Nanowerk News) Scientists at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center (Texas A&M Health) have discovered that nano-sized carbon materials derived from the oxidation of carbon-rich sources can be used to treat Down syndrome and other disorders associated with high levels of hydrogen sulfide.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is mainly known as a by-product of petroleum production which is characterized by a “rotten egg” odor. This noxious gas is also produced naturally from the anaerobic decomposition, or fermentation, of organic matter—when bacteria break down animal waste, food waste, and other organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Hydrogen sulfide is synthesized in living organisms, where it plays an important role in the function of bones, brain, liver and kidneys, as well as regulates the dilation of blood vessels and completes the electron transport chain.

One of the most well-known conditions associated with high levels of hydrogen sulfide is Down’s syndrome. This genetic disorder is associated with decreased function of many systems over time, including the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Previous lesson (Medical Hypothesis, “Mental retardation in Down’s syndrome: the hydrogen sulfide hypothesis”) have been hypothesized that reducing circulating levels of H2S may improve function in individuals with Down syndrome. However, hydrogen sulfide is necessary for normal biological function, so direct inhibition of enzyme synthesis can be detrimental.

An innovative and collaborative study led by Thomas A. Kent, MD, Robert A. Welch Chair Professor at Texas A&M Health Institute of Biosciences and Technology and Texas A&M University School of Medicine, reveals how nano-sized carbon materials derived from the oxidation of multiple carbon-rich sources can act as mediators of several therapeutic reactions and improve outcomes in experimental models ranging from stroke, hemorrhage, trauma, and mitochondrial toxicity. This paper, published in a high-impact journal Advanced Materials (“Oxidation of Hydrogen Sulfide to Polysulfide and Thiosulfate by Carbon Nanozymes: Therapeutic Implications with Emphasis in Down’s Syndrome”), highlighting the ability of carbon nanomaterials to enhance the function and survival of Down syndrome-derived cells.

This research describes how easily synthesized carbon nanomaterials can provide a new approach to treating impaired levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide in disorders such as Down’s syndrome and many others. Instead of blocking its production, hydrogen sulfide is converted into its metabolites which offer many beneficial functions such as modifying proteins to increase their ability to act as antioxidants. These materials act as nano-sized synthetic enzymes, called nanozymes, which so far have not shown obvious toxicity in different experimental models and are well tolerated while protecting against acute and chronic injury.

“We are very excited about this research because we believe we have found a way to treat many disorders using carbon-based materials and easy and simple synthesis methods,” said Kent. “We hope these materials will provide a novel approach to treating high hydrogen sulfide disorder, by converting it into beneficial metabolites as exemplified by Down’s syndrome.

“We are constantly discovering new actions, all of which have been beneficial so far and may just be the tip of the iceberg of what these materials can do to support important biological functions in conditions where they are threatened,” he continued.


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