Farts are the new kale.
The decidedly funky gas of the human body has held Dr Rui Wang's scientific gaze (or whatever the nasal equivalent of gaze is) for nearly two decades. In 2000, he cloned an enzyme that synthesizes hydrogen sulfide in human blood vessels. The results? Lower blood pressure as the gas dilated the vessels. An important find. His further trials on mice with hypertension proved equally fruitful (side note: I imagine Type A mice running around a maze in little business suits). But Dr. Wang doesn't think the benefits stop at blood pressure alone. He's confident that H2S is "a universal solution for many things". Farts, it seems, are altering the course of medical science.
Wang has also prophesied that a "fart pill" will hit shelves before long. It's not that far fetched an idea. Garlic pills have long been peddled for their positive effects on high blood pressure. Garlic, yummy yet antisocial food that it is, makes you reek. From both ends. Aside from the nosferatu-repelling breath, it also makes you fart. Or in scientific terms, boosts beneficial H2S levels. Gas is good for you. So, fart pills are the health trend we need, not the health trend we want. Like the Dark Knight.
The hallowed halls of science are filled with the ripe odour of air biscuits. "Fart detectors" adorn the walls of Dr Wang's research lab at Laurentian University. The sensors sniff out H2S, or hydrogen sulfide, sounding an alarm should they catch an eye-watering whiff. In high quantities, it's categorically toxic. I don't mean it clears a room, it kills. A silent but violent occupational hazard for those who work in the energy industry. But in small doses it's not only innocuous, it could very well improve lives.
Turns out it's all about balance. And that balance is precious. Wang believes the right amounts of H2S in humans could fortify us against heart attacks, and stroke. Still other research of his says H2S may affect treatments for diabetes or be used as a biological bounty hunter of sorts to track down cancer cells. Gas, he says, may even solve our romantic ills: bad breath and erectile dysfunction, could be cured by the right levels of H2S.
His unpublished data even links gas to sperm production. "Don't marry a man who doesn't fart," he cautions. "A man who farts a lot will not have reproductive problems". Sound advice for any singles out there: Wang is a world leader in the field.
Wang is quick to clarify that the gas produced by our intestinal flora (gut bacteria) and the one found in our blood vessels, albeit chemically identical, are pretty distinct. For one, the H2S levels of the human fart are about 100 to 1,000 times higher than that produced in your circulatory system. Make no mistake though, "H2S is the 'fart' smell. It's very healthy", Wang says. "It's what you smell at hot springs". What we recognize instantly as the pungent waft of rotten eggs.
The gasy path of discovery
It may or may not blow your hair back to learn that rotten eggs are precisely what lead Wang down his gasy path of scientific discovery. In 1998, his daughter's coloured Easter egg project took a turn for the worse. And we're all the better for it. The shells hadn't been properly evacuated leaving the eggs within to rot creating the tell-tale stench (Eau de Sewage). Research into that stench, or rather the gas molecule that causes it, Nitric Oxide, eventually lead Wang to farts. Well, first it lead him to nitrogen monoxide (NO), a signalling molecule we all produce that affects cell behaviour. Then he found farts. But he wasn't the first. That same year, three American scientist won the Nobel Prize in medicine for their research into NO when they showed it not only dilated blood vessels but helped regulate function of the human immune system. Parents, if you want your kids to stay in school, tell them they give away Nobel Prizes for fart research. Had I known, I might be wearing a lab coat right now.
A brief history of our fascination with flatulence
The dark allure of farts goes back millennia. They've delighted children and mortified (some) adults for eons. Probably somewhere around the time pride or decorum showed up. If you think you're above a little toilet humor remember that the world's oldest joke was a fart joke. Fact. The delivery likely gets lost in the translation but according to scholars from Britain's University of Wolverhampton a Sumerian stone tablet from 1900 BC reads "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap." I don't get it. But there's no denying it. That's a fart joke. And it probably killed in ancient Sumeria. There are also Fart Battle Scrolls from feudal Japan. Yes. They are real. Also, there are 150 names for 'breaking wind'. Probably more. There's just something about gas that we're both drawn to and repelled by at the same time. My god, whoopi cushions! With science now getting involved they're finally discovering it's nothing to chortle at. Just kidding, it's still epicly hilarious.
Dr. Wang says, "People just thought, 'You fart – that's a bad thing.' Well, it's not." We need gas. In the right amounts and the right context, of course. The comedic nature of his research is not lost on him. In fact, he even uses it as a teaching tool.
A final thought from Wang: "If you don't fart, you die". Doctors orders. So, do it for science. Do it for your health. Besides, if kids (of all ages) are nearby, you'll at least get a laugh.