PUMPkin Centre: Meds on the Horizon
Just in time for Halloween, scientists at the Danish National Research Foundation's PUMPkin Centre of the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University have stumbled on "ground-breaking knowledge about calcium pumps in cells." (No, this has nothing to do with actual pumpkins but we couldn't resist the holiday, ahem, joke. Sorry!)
In any case, what you need to know about your body's internal calcium pumps is that they work to get rid of potentially toxic levels of calcium that flood your cells when you're exposed to a bacterial attack or extreme cold or even certain odors. The calcium gives your cells a much-needed signal about threats to your health but must be pumped out again quickly. The PUMPkin researchers, who published their findings in the journal Nature, believe that their work "may form the basis for the development of new drugs and new methods of food production", according to a release from the University of Copenhagen.
The release quotes postdoctoral fellows Henning Tidow and Lisbeth Rosager Poulsen as saying, "It turns out that the calcium pump can accurately measure the cell's calcium content and adjust its speed in accordance with this information. This prevents the concentration of calcium ions in the cytoplasm from reaching a critical concentration that damages the cells. The calcium pump is inactive when the concentration of calcium is low, but it is activated stepwise when the calcium concentration increases."
Tidow also said, "To our great surprise, we found that the calcium pump binds two calmodulin proteins, and not just one as always assumed . . . We could show that the cell only responded to incoming calcium when concentrations above carefully defined threshold values were found. This may be important for the way cells define their status in the circadian rhythm or during cell division, for example."