The Fundamental Problem Behind Every Disease On This Planet
It all has something to do with cell functions.
The human body consists of 38 trillion cells, which are called upon to do different things as programmed by the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) chains that govern their function and differentiation.
Each individual cell on its own may not amount to much. A group of similar cells contained in an extracellular matrix (ECM) that carry out the same specific function, however, forms a cell tissue — hence we can say that multiple similar cells will form a tissue. In the same way, multiple tissues will form an organ. Multiple organs functioning together create a system.
We see these systems in various parts of our body. For example, the immune system is meant to protect our body against various foreign invaders. The digestive system processes food that we eat and dumps out waste. The respiratory system extracts oxygen from the air that we breathe in, and disposes of carbon dioxide into the air that we breathe out. The central nervous system controls our nerve functions and our sensations.
These systems are constantly in communication with each other. Cells are sending out signals in the form of electrical impulses or biochemical signals. If the signal is biochemical in nature, it would be the case that one cell sends out a signal that binds to a receptor on another cell, which results in the other cell doing something. Hence, a biochemical signalling mechanism functions very much like a lock and key mechanism — the biochemical signal that one cell sends out functions as a key to unlock the receptor on the next cell, which then signals the next cell to do something. This signalling process then forms a cascade of sequential processes.
All these systems are part of one human body.
When anything goes wrong with a system, we may feel the effects of what goes wrong in the form of symptoms. Some symptoms aren’t as tangible as others, unfortunately. But when a system goes wrong, the cascading effect may trickle down and affect other systems in due time.
How does a cell signal go wrong?
A cell produces its signals based on what its DNA tells it to produce. There are many genes that are encoded onto a DNA chain, and these genes are continuously being copied and reproduced via cell division and multiplication. Various transcription pathways are involved in the cell signalling process cascades that are humming along in the body as we go about our daily activities.
However, as a photocopier will end up producing faulty replicates over time, the cell reproduction process will also end up becoming faulty over time. The encoding mechanism, if problematic, will result in the production of defective cells. These defects include:
Producing too much of a certain biochemical signal.
Producing too little/none of the said biochemical signal.
Signalling functions can also be affected by any physical/mental/emotional injuries that our body experiences.
In addition, cell DNA can be affected by the presence of other toxins in the body, or by reactive species that can react with cell DNA and change up the structure of the cell DNA, such that it cannot be used to encode new signals or reproduce in the manner that it was intended for.
What happens when the cell signal goes awry?
When we have too much or too little signal being produced, the signalling cascade can get affected and lead to unintended consequences.
For example, in the case of osteoarthritis, the sequence of events goes as follows:
Injury or irritation to the joints causes the immune system cells to raise an inflammatory signal to indicate that there is something wrong with the injured area. That inflammatory signal is also precisely why our ankles swell up when we sprain them.
This inflammatory signal causes the synovial cells in the joints to produce matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes that can digest away the damaged collagen ECMs.
Chondrocyte cells in our joints will synthesise fresh collagen to replace the damaged and digested collagen bits.
The immune system shuts off the inflammatory signal when the repairs are complete, and things ought to go back to near normal.
However, what happens when there is constant irritation, or when the immune system does not shut off the inflammatory signal?
The constant irritation of the joints causes the synovial cells to be producing more MMPs than usual, which aid in the digestion of the collagen ECM.
Chondrocyte activity is now significantly lesser than synovial cell activity, hence the rate of collagen destruction will be significantly greater than the rate of collagen synthesis.
The net result, therefore, is joint degradation, which if left unchecked over time, will contribute to osteoarthritis.
In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we see a unique situation where the immune system sends out an inflammatory signal to directly attack the collagen ECMs. The MMPs that are produced come fast and furious as the inflammatory signals are sent out like high intensity flares, such that every RA flare up is punctuated with redness and swelling of the affected joints.
That’s arthritis in a nutshell!
We can use Type 2 diabetes as another example.
An inflammation signal that the immune system cells raise will bind onto other healthy cells and cause them to resist the insulin signal when it comes to feeding time.
When the cells collectively resist the insulin signal and take in less glucose from the blood than normal, there will be an accumulation of glucose in the blood, which then leads into Type 2 diabetes.
In Type 1 diabetes, an inflammation signal that the immune system raises in the pancreas causes the immune cells to attack and kill the beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin. As a result, there is much less of an insulin signal being produced during feeding time and the cells take in less glucose than necessary, which then leads into the accumulation of glucose in the blood over time, or Type 1 diabetes.
That’s diabetes in a nutshell!
What is the source of the aberrant signal?
There can be many different sources that contribute to aberrant signalling. Some of these sources can be avoided — for example, in the case of joint injuries, a professional athlete can reduce exposure to those injuries by employing proper warm-up and cool-down techniques, or by not working out the injured joint (either during training or participating in actual competitions) when there are already signs of discomfort and injury.
Some of these aberrant signals are unfortunately hereditary — if the DNA passed on from two healthy parents was copied by a faulty transcription mechanism, the child would be born with certain health issues that have an extremely low probability of curing.
However, most of us who are born healthy and disease free tend to develop issues related to metabolic syndrome during the later parts of our life, especially as we live subpar lifestyles. The stresses of life, the poor quality diets, the poor sleep quality that comes with stress and the lack of sufficient exercise can play a big role with regards to inflammatory signalling, as I have outlined here.
Diseases, though, are problems that first start out with aberrant cell signalling. When we do have a disease, medications do help to keep the symptoms under control.
But can we address the root cause of the problem, as to why the cell signalling cascade is behaving abnormally in the first place?
This article is part of the The Fundamental Problem Behind Every Disease On This Planet ebook that I have made available on Amazon.com in Kindle format.