Molecular hydrogen (H2) has been accepted to be an inert and nonfunctional molecule in our body. We have turned this concept by demonstrating that H2 reacts with strong oxidants such as hydroxyl radical in cells, and proposed its potential for preventive and therapeutic applications.
H2 has a number of advantages exhibiting extensive effects: H2 rapidly diffuses into tissues and cells, and it is mild enough neither to disturb metabolic redox reactions nor to affect signaling reactive oxygen species; therefore, there should be no or little adverse effects of H2. There are several methods to ingest or consume H2; inhaling H2 gas, drinking H2-dissolved water (H2-water), injecting H2-dissolved saline (H2-saline), taking an H2 bath, or dropping H2-saline into the eyes.
The numerous publications on its biological and medical benefits revealed that H2 reduces oxidative stress not only by direct reactions with strong oxidants, but also indirectly by regulating various gene expressions. Moreover, by regulating the gene expressions, H2 functions as an anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic, and stimulates energy metabolism. In addition to growing evidence obtained by model animal experiments, extensive clinical examinations were performed or are under investigation. Since most drugs specifically act to their targets, H2 seems to differ from conventional pharmaceutical drugs. Owing to its great efficacy and lack of adverse effects, H2 has promising potential for clinical use against many diseases.