The Signaling Messengers
We’ve been entertained and edified by the inner life of the cell — how it’s “micro machinery” makes protein molecules from amino acids in the ribosomes and produces its own energy (ATP) in the mitochondria. We will now move on to learn how these inner parts of the cells communicate with one another, as well as how the cells communicate among themselves and with the various systems of the body. Again, I will call upon Dr. Gary Samuelson to help tell the story from his booklet The Science of Healing Revealed – New Insights into Redox Signaling.
Looking at the simple molecular keys that control the kinase fuel gates that energize the machinery in the living cell gives us a first glimpse at a very important class of molecules and proteins that act as messengers that are sent off to make sure specific things happen or do not happen. As can be imagined, these signaling messengers serve a very important role in the working of the cells. They send signals between the machinery in the cell that determines how the cell’s machinery operates and responds to the normal changes in its environment as well as drastic alarms like threats, damage, lack of oxygen, changes in temperature, the arrival of a nerve signal, etc. They can also be sent as long distance messengers to send signals between cells and tissues, as well as general messengers released into the blood and lymph that affect the working of whole systems throughout the entire body, like adrenaline for example. A few of these are listed below. The rest of this booklet, however, is focused on the emerging science that explains, in part, how signaling messengers do what they do and the processes that keeps them controlled and balanced when the body is healthy.
Redox messengers – Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Reduced SpeCies (RS) — The smallest and most fundamental universal signaling molecules in the body are the simple but extremely important reactive molecules that are formed from combinations of the atoms (Na, CI, H, 0, N) readily found in the salt water bath that fills the inside of the cells (cytosol). All of life’s players mentioned so far float around in this bath and can be surrounded by a balanced mixture of these reactive molecules…. “
Dr. Samuelson lists a few of these reactive molecules, such as Superoxide, Hydrogen Peroxide, Hypochiorous Acid, Nitric Oxide, only four of some 20 of them. Then there are these players:
Charged metal ions – Their movement alone makes the electric current that carries signals along our nerves and muscles. They also play signaling roles in hundreds of different life processes. Three examples or these are the Calcium ion (Ca2+), the Potassium ion (K+) and Sodium ion (Na+).
Cytokines – The messengers that activate and regulate the immune system, controlling inflammation, white blood cell movement and natural cell death; Interleukins (regulate immune cells); Interferons (identify invaders,viruses).
Then there are the Endocrine messengers that control and regulate digestion, metabolism and organ function: Adrenaline, Insulin, Gastrin. And the Hormone messengers that determine tissue growth and reproductive function: Testosterone, Estrogen and Progesterone.
Another group of fascinating players in the life of the cell are what are called the “Transcription Factors.“ These messengers cause the DNA inside the nucleus to call for increased production or reduction of certain specific proteins: NF-kappaB calls for inflammation; NRF2 calls for antioxidants; and TNF calls for tumor death.
Enzymes – the “break-it-down clean-it-up and recycle-it crew.”
There are enzymes in the cell that are assigned to the clean-up and recycling crew. They speed up the elimination of the cell’s “garbage,” breaking down the unneeded or excess molecules into smaller useful components. Without these enzymes we would quickly die from the accumulation of excessive and possibly harmful unneeded molecules inside the cells. They also protect the cells by breaking down toxins that come in from the outside environment.
In a very real sense, these enzymes are more than just the garbage disposal crew, they form an indispensable part of the system that maintains the chemical balance needed to sustain all of the life-critical processes that take place inside the cells. In the cell, molecules (large and small) are constantly in the process of being built up from smaller pieces and then torn back down into smaller pieces again.
Antioxiants – “The clean-up crew that is placed strategically in the cell, like guardians, to break down and eliminate the oxidants that would otherwise accumulate and cause damage.” They are: Glutathione Peroxldase (GPx) that breaks down various oxidants (free radicals), Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) that breaks down superoxides, and Catalase that breaks down hydrogen peroxide.
Proteases– The large protein break-it-down crew, used as digestive enzymes to break down food and used by cells to break down unneeded or defective proteins. They are Trypsin, Chyotrypsin and Pepsinogen.
Other “Staff Members” are: Collagen, Cholesterol, Glucose, Triglycerides, Prostaglandin, Quinine, Oleic Acid, Cocaine, Caffeine, Levidopa, and Histamine.
As we can see, there are many and varied types of “actors” playing various and sundry roles to make life possible in our bodies so that we can live and serve in this earthly plane of existence. It’s helpful to have them placed in a context the way Dr. Samuelson does in his booklet.
In my next post we will learn how all these actors work together via the signaling messengers, whose crucial role it is to keep all the actors in touch with one another and all the systems of the body well-informed on what’s going on with each part and within the whole body. Then we will be prepared to study and learn the important role chemical balance plays in the healing process, and how the body keeps everything balanced. Until then, if you haven’t viewed it already, take the time now to enjoy David Bolinsky’s “Fantastic Voyage Inside the Cell” (10 min).
My best to your health and healing,
Dr. Tony Palombo