Chapter Excerpt: Navigation Map of Pathways

COVER_REDOX_SIGNALING_BIOLOGY

The Cardiovascular and Pulmonary System – Heart, Lungs, and Blood…

In the cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary system, redox balance is strictly regulated. There are about 5000 mitochondria [producing redox signaling molecules] in every heart cell. As you can imagine, the level of superoxide free radicals (O2*-) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) [redox signaling molecules] in heart cells must be carefully regulated and controlled. The heart can never take a break and so redox imbalance and cellular damage in heart tissue must be quickly detected and repaired. The redox signaling networks among heart cells are very efficient. Endothelial layers that line the blood vessels extend these signaling networks to the whole cardiovascular network, sending signals that regulate blood flow, pressure, and needed supplies throughout the whole body, along the whole river of life, in all of our cellular communities, creating a massively complex network analogous to the signaling capacity of our nervous system…

The Digestive System – Mouth, Stomach, and Intestines

In the digestive system, the cell linings in the intestines that process nutrients are exposed to acids, enzymes, toxins, oxidants, physical stress, and all manner of harsh environments. The turnover rate for these types of cells is one of the highest in the body; tens of billions of stomach and intestinal cells are replaced per day. In fact, the entire length of intestines themselves are completely replaced about every 7 days. This continual turnover of cells requires that damaged cells are quickly detected, repaired, or replaced. You can compare the intestinal lining to a “forest” of brush cells where there are frequent redox “smoke signals” sent by the damaged cells indicating “forest fires” that need immediate attention from the emergency responders. If this redox signaling system is not in excellent shape, then potential damage can spread too quickly, causing leaks and gaps that compromise the function of the digestive system…

The Nervous System – Brain, Spine, and Peripheral Nerves

In the nervous system, brain cells are not easily replaced and must be protected. Oxidative stress is the primary reason for nerve cell death, even more so than lack of oxygen. Mental stress and worry, as well as deep thinking, increases brain activity. Heightened brain activity incites a build-up of oxidants or oxidative stress…Oxidative stress triggers seizures and/or other irregularities. Regulation of blood flow through the brain is closely monitored, as the brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and sugars. All of this is regulated by redox signaling networks…Peripheral nerves in the body send pain messages when they are exposed to oxidative stress due to oxidants in the neighborhood. Even more, the redox signaling networks are also very active in helping maintain the balance of the hormonal axes in the brain and nerves (such as the HPA axis) that help keep the emotional balance we need to function. There is no question to the prime importance of the redox signaling networks in the brain. The brain contains most complex signaling network in the body integrally and intricately connected by such signaling networks.

The Endocrine System – The Pituitary, Thyroid, and Adrenals

In the endocrine system, glandular secretions (hormones) are triggered by stress and redox pathways. We have already discussed how important it is to our emotional and physical state to maintain hormonal balance throughout the whole network of the endocrine system. If oxidative stress is the trigger for hormonal secretions and redox signaling regulates oxidative stress, you can imagine the importance of redox signaling to maintain balance in the endocrine system. There is direct evidence that correct redox balance in the vital fluids around our cells also helps lubricate the “windows” and “doors” (receptors) that bring hormonal messages (and insulin) into the cells, which means that smaller numbers of hormones may be needed to do the job, making hormonal regulation lighter and faster and more readily balanced.

The Excretory System – The Skin, Kidneys, and Colon

The tissues of our excretory systems (skin glands, kidneys, colon, etc.) have the unsavory job of sorting through and eliminating the toxic garbage of the body. This requires efficient management of toxic response and extraordinary communication signals between specialized layers of tissue, as well as top-grade protective equipment (antioxidants) to do the job. There is perhaps no other system of the body where redox signaling is more active to maintain the immediate health of the tissues than in the kidneys and intestines. Their specialized layers of tissue are constantly sorting and pushing along the toxic garbage. These toxins cause oxidative stress and cell death due to toxic insult of the tissues. As always, the antioxidants need to be on call to quickly clean up the oxidative stress before it causes any serious damage and repair and replace damaged cells. The oxidative stress itself also helps identify the toxins and helps them to move out through the excretory channels. All these processes require a high level of redox signaling. Toxic stress, in addition, causes the release of certain hormones associated with toxic load. For example, the kidneys will release a hormone called renin when they are under a high toxic stress. Renin is designed to increase the blood pressure needed in order to push the toxins out faster. Of course, water (proper hydration) is always regulated and beneficial to excretory processes…

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