Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When Heme Attacks: After Trauma, The Molecule That Makes Life Possible Rampages

Date:
October 3, 2003
Source:
University Of Pennsylvania Medical Center
Summary:
Heme, the iron-bearing, oxygen-carrying core of hemoglobin, makes it possible for blood to carry oxygen, but researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have determined how free-floating heme can also make traumatic events worse by damaging tissue.

Philadelphia, PA -– Heme, the iron-bearing, oxygen-carrying core of hemoglobin, makes it possible for blood to carry oxygen, but researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have determined how free-floating heme can also make traumatic events worse by damaging tissue. The Penn researchers present their findings in the October 2nd issue of the journal Nature. Fortunately, the researchers also identified a chemical that can be targeted by drug developers to impede the deleterious effects of free-floating heme.

Following a traumatic event – such as an accident, a stroke, a heart attack or even surgery – heme floods the spaces between and inside cells and exacerbates the damage. It does so by shutting down an important cell membrane channel, an action that kills neurons and constricts blood vessels. While investigating this process, the researchers also determined that a chemical called NS1619 restores the function of the cell membrane channel. NS1619 and its derivatives could be the source for a new drug – one that prevents the secondary events that worsen trauma damage.

"Following a heart attack, a stroke, or any really severe physical injury, heme is literally shaken loose from hemoglobin," said Xiang Dong Tang, MD, PhD, Staff Scientist in Penn's Department of Physiology. "Normally, cells can compensate and recycle loose heme. But when larger concentrations are released, heme can gum up the works, specifically the Maxi-K ion channel, a cell membrane protein important for blood vessel relaxation and neuron excitability."

Maxi-K is a channel that moves potassium ions out of cells. In the Nature paper, Tang and his colleagues prove that the Maxi-K protein possesses sites that bind heme. If these sites were removed or altered, heme could not effect Maxi-K proteins.

"Maxi-K is found in the lining of blood vessels. When it is turned off, the vessel constricts, increasing blood pressure, which is decidedly not beneficial following a heart attack, " said Toshinori Hoshi, PhD, Associate Professor in Penn's Department of Physiology and co-author of the Nature article. "In neurons, disrupting Maxi-K leads to excessive calcium accumulation. Eventually, this ionic buildup triggers cell suicide and, therefore, the loss of the neuron."

The chemical heme is essential for most forms of life. It exists in hemoglobin for oxygen transport, in cytochromes for cellular energy production, and in guanylate cyclase for blood pressure regulation. The molecule itself is tiny, a flat snowflake of a carbon framework surrounding a single atom of iron, but it is crucial for the cellular process of respiration and the action of nirtroglycerine.

"Generally, the heme molecule is attached to larger molecules, such as hemoglobin, but it is easily set loose. Indeed, there is an entire cellular industry behind recycling and reusing 'lost' heme," said Tang. "But that system can get overwhelmed in times of serious trauma and bleeding."

Studying the heme recycling system might prove useful in developing treatments for preventing the secondary damage set off by heme. Certain cells, such as neurons, do have ways of transporting heme. If the 'heme transport' is identified and the specific blocker is found, it could help prevent symptoms resulting from trauma and bleeding.

Meanwhile, according to Tang and his colleagues, there is already a known agent that can relieve Maxi-K from heme inhibition. NS1619 is known as the "Maxi-K opener," and, as the researchers have shown, readily reverses the heme-mediated inhibition.

"I can envision the use of a drug similar to NS1619 as an emergency treatment," said Tang. "In the emergency room, after an accident or heart attack, it could be used to keep the damage from continuing on a cellular level – before it could result in bad effects for the entire body."

Scientists also contributing to this research include Rong Xu from Penn, Mark F. Reynolds, from St. Joseph's University, Marcia L. Garcia, from Merck Research Laboratories, and Stefan H. Heinemann, from Friedrich Schiller University. Funding for this research came from the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Pennsylvania Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Pennsylvania Medical Center. "When Heme Attacks: After Trauma, The Molecule That Makes Life Possible Rampages." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002055731.htm>.
University Of Pennsylvania Medical Center. (2003, October 3). When Heme Attacks: After Trauma, The Molecule That Makes Life Possible Rampages. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002055731.htm
University Of Pennsylvania Medical Center. "When Heme Attacks: After Trauma, The Molecule That Makes Life Possible Rampages." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002055731.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Aimed at reducing sexual assaults on college campuses, California has adopted a new law changing the standard of consent for sexual activity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Researchers looked at 1,500 blood samples and determined people who developed pancreatic cancer had more branched chain amino acids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins