DOHA: Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) have made new discoveries about the role of calcium in biological processes that underpin almost all aspects of life.
A research project by Dr Raphael Courjaret, Research Associate in Physiology and Biophysics, and Dr Khaled Machaca, Associate Dean for Research, has shed new light on the complex role played by calcium ions, which at the cellular level, serve as messengers, ferrying information to parts of the cell to facilitate key biochemical processes such as fertilisation, muscle contraction, transmission of nervous signals and blood clotting.
The research, which used advanced laser microscopy and electrophysiology techniques to reveal a novel pathway for calcium signalling at the intracellular level, has been published in the biomedical journal Nature Communications.
Dr Courjaret said: “Calcium is an intracellular messenger that encodes information from the environment into a cellular response. It tells the cell when to move, divide or even die. In other words, calcium converts information into a new language the cell can understand.”
It has long been known that calcium plays a role as a messenger within cells, and that calcium ions can enter cells through membrane proteins known as channels; it is also well known that calcium is able to serve as an intracellular messenger by signalling locally in proximity to these channels, as well as globally if the ions spread throughout the whole cell.
The new work by Courjaret and Machaca has defined a novel calcium signalling pathway between these two spatial extremes they call ‘mid-range calcium signalling’.