Reverse Oxidative Stress with Redox Signalling
We have always believed that our health and wellbeing are a result of the symphony played by our organs working together in harmony. Under the direction of the brain, the conductor, our body creates the magical melody of human wellness. But with scientific advances, we have now gained evidence on the dominant role played by genetic expressions and the critical information carried by the messaging services to make them work. True magic really happens at a cellular level. But how does it all happen? Is there a way to reverse oxidative stress?.
But first… let’s understand what happens at the cellular level
One of the key elements of a typical cell is mitochondria. Mitochondria is a complex structure within the cell and it even has its own DNA. Every cell within the body, except red blood cells, has mitochondria. One of the main functions of mitochondria is energy production. In this role, you can imagine it to be the powerhouse of the cell. Its main role is to convert Adenosine Di-Phosphate (ADP) to Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) and in the process release energy. This process helps us to do everything that needs energy, right from pressing our fingers on a keyboard to running and exercising.
There is no doubt that what mitochondria do is essential to our survival. But every single time, the mitochondria produce ATP, it also releases Redox signalling molecules. We knew for a long time but Redox signalling molecules since long have been discarded as nothing but a waste product. Turns out, it is anything but a waste product. In fact, they are the “fountains of youth”.
Let’s understand Redox signalling molecules deeper
The phrase comprises of the word “Redox” and “signalling molecules”. Let’s take them one at a time. Redox (short for reduction-oxidation reaction) is a chemical reaction in which the oxidation states of atoms (building blocks of a molecule) are changed. Any such reaction involves both a reduction process and a complementary oxidation process, two key concepts involved with electron transfer processes. In short, they affect chemical transformation which involves the transfer of an electron.
Signalling molecules, on the other hand, are molecules that cells use to “talk” to each other by a process called cell signalling. This allows the cells to cooperate and coordinate to make complex physiological processes possible.
One of the important roles of cellular signalling is a genetic expression by stimulating genetic pathways. Not the kind of gene expression that dictates how tall you are or which parent you look like, though that is, of course, a part of genetics. The gene expression pathways we’re talking about right now are the communication lines that carry life-sustaining instructions from our genes to our cells. The cells can then carry out these instructions and keep us alive and healthy.
Cell signalling molecules have been demonstrated to benefit gene expression pathways in the following body systems –
- Immune System
- Hormone Modulation
- Inflammatory Response
- Digestive Function
- Musculoskeletal Health
- Cardio Vascular Health
- Endocrine (Hormonal) Health
- Skin Health
- Brain / Nerve Health
- Digestive Health
- Respiratory Health
So, what exactly is Redox Signalling?
Redox signalling is one of the processes by means of which cells send and receive chemical instructions among each other. This enables the cells to work together, making complex physiological phenomena like movement, vision, digestion, etc. possible. Redox signalling is so vital to our being that if it gets disrupted, many of our physiological processes would start failing almost immediately.
Redox signalling molecules are produced within every cell in our body which acts as either cellular activators (Reduced Species or RS) or cellular messengers (Reactive Oxidative Species or ROS).
Cellular Activators (Reduced Species or RS)
Let’s have the same exercise again. In the word “Reduced Species”, “reduced” denotes the state of the activator. This “reduced” state of this species helps in “activating” antioxidants. While the word “species” denotes the variety of molecules that “activate” antioxidants. The activator molecules carry the messages that tell your cells to activate antioxidants stored in your body. Please note that no amount of additional antioxidant, whether natural or supplement can produce the desired effect, unless “activated”.
Antioxidants are chemicals (both naturally occurring and man-made) that keep free radicals in check. Free radicals are positively charged and chemically unstable particles who are in dire need to bind themselves to anything they lay their hands on by stealing an electron. This is bad for biological systems such as ourselves as free radicals can enter our cells and randomly bind to any biomolecule, causing oxidation.
In an ideal scenario, a cell should be able to produce enough cellular activators or RS to “activate” sufficient antioxidants to neutralize free radicals. An absence of this would lead to oxidative stress or cellular damage. Depending upon which cell is compromised and how high the damage is, the result could be any ailment ranging from mild inflammation to even cancer (in case of compromise to the genetic structure).
Cellular Messengers (Reactive Oxidative Species or ROS)
Reactive Oxidative Species or ROS are in a way free radicals themselves but with a very different role. As the name suggests, these are oxidizing agents who act messengers to the immune system. Without ROS, our body’s immune system has no mechanism to identify oxidative stress or a localized problem it should address. An abundance of ROS in a cellular vicinity indicates “time to act” to the immune system. These Messenger molecules are responsible for enabling proper cell communication within our body to ensure the optimal performance of the immune system. They activate our body’s immune system to protect against bacteria, viruses, and infection.
Wellness is a result of Pro-oxidant and Antioxidant Balance
Our health depends on the balance between oxidative stress and antioxidant defenses. Oxidative stress creates an imbalance between pro-oxidants and antioxidant systems in our body. An imbalance can be a result of several environmental factors. Some of them could be exposure to pollutants, infections, poor diet, toxins, and radiation. To counter this, our body utilizes redox signalling to communicate and to help maintain a healthy balance between pro-oxidants and antioxidants.
Redox signalling molecules regulate our immune system
Redox signalling molecules support crucial immune system functions, as well as cell renewal and healing at every age. They play very crucial roles in:
- killing pathogens inside the body by destroying infected body cells
- triggering and shaping the immune response of the body against infections
- initiating and regulating cellular repair and restoration
Redox signalling is responsible for maintaining our health and wellness at the molecular level. Without it, life wouldn’t have been possible at all! However, our ability to utilize redox molecules becomes less efficient as we age. Science shows that our diets, our environment, or just getting older can actually turn off genes or lower their activity (downregulation) in the body. The genes which are responsible for redox signalling in our body are also downregulated. Thus, as we age, stress and environmental toxins inundate our lives and weaken our defenses. The effect on each individual could different, even under similar environmental and socio-cultural factors due to a variety of reasons. But the result is always detrimental and it shows through a variety of health ailments.
Bio-Individuality and Redox Signalling
An individual’s cell redox potential affects the bio-mechanism of the gene expression. In other words, with efficient redox signalling, genes can express the necessary molecules for homeostatic balance by either replacing, recycling, or repairing a damaged cell.
The importance of this cannot be overstated: cellular redox signalling processes enable the cells to detect the damage, and start the repair and replace mechanisms in the mitochondria, including autophagy and apoptosis .
Due to various environmental and genetic factors, each one of us starts developing our own bio-individual patterns of redox signalling and methods to reverse oxidative stress. These unique patterns may lead to various kinds of health concerns ranging from premature aging, skin ailments to diabetes, heart diseases and even cancer. Thus, creating environmental of wellbeing for our redox molecules could be a potential weapon in the armory.