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Calcium Plays a Pivotal Role in Essential Bodily Secretions


Secretions help keep the human body fully functional, and a new study suggests that calcium — which is present in all bodily cells — is a gatekeeper of this activity. An increase in calcium within cells, researchers say, opens the gates for production and secretion of essential bodily fluids, such as saliva and digestive juices. Data explaining the secretion process — which has proven largely enigmatic — appeared in Science Signaling in the paper, “Defining the Stoichiometry of Inositol 1,4,5-Trisphosphate Binding Required to Initiate Ca2+ Release.”

The study’s lead author, David I. Yule, PhD, a professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, has studied calcium for 15 years. His findings indicate that when calcium doesn’t increase inside cells, the so-called gates do not open. This closed-off channel can result in problems, such as Sjögren syndrome or trouble chewing, swallowing or speaking. Yule has also studied calcium’s role in other disorders in which calcium and secretions are disrupted. In conjunction with fellow researchers, he has identified the vital role of IP3 receptor proteins in increasing calcium within cells — which, in turn, allows cell gates to remain open.

Building off this research, and using advanced molecular engineering and gene editing techniques, scientists have discovered that each gate must be activated for calcium to increase and the secretion process to fully function. Researchers believe this finding will have significant implications not only for our understanding of how calcium is controlled within cells, but also for understanding various disorders that involve bodily secretions. For example, additional research is planned to investigate how other diseases affecting the IP3 protein contribute to brain and immune system disorders.

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