Although there is some contention on whether or not the science is referring to smelling hydrogen sulfide, the research itself looked at how that rotten egg-smelling gas can help protect diseased cells from deteriorating in animals. And it has to do with something called mitochondria, a part of cells responsible for energy production, per Healthline.
Mitochondria are what give cells power, so to speak. When we fall ill with health conditions that cause damage to cells in our arteries or veins, mitochondria produce their own hydrogen sulfide to protect the cells from dying. But when the disease progresses, this ability diminishes as well. The scientists created a mimicked version of hydrogen sulfide, which they named AP39 and exposed to the diseased cells. According to study co-author Matt Whiteman, a professor at the University of Exeter Medical School (via New York Post), “Our results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive.”
While news reports were quick to translate this to mean we ought to be smelling our own farts, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Texas in Galveston, Dr. Csaba Szabo, thinks otherwise (via NBC News). While not discounting the potential for artificially created hydrogen sulfide to boost cell health, he added that “none of this research says you should go and inhale farts.”