In the hunt for ways to extend life, scientists are turning to an unlikely source: the gas that gives rotten eggs their foul smell.

Hydrogen sulfide — maligned for its toxic and explosive properties — may slow aging and block damaging chemical reactions inside cells, according to scientists in China, who reviewed studies on the malodorous gas and its effects on the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Hydrogen sulfide activates a gene linked to longevity in a way similar to resveratrol, an antioxidant in red wine that GlaxoSmithKline PLC tried to turn into a drug, scientists found. Unlike resveratrol, hydrogen sulfide is made by the body. Pills that boost levels of the compound may one day prolong life.