An international team led by researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has published new findings that demonstrate how a specific protein controls the body's ability to balance magnesium levels. Magnesium is an essential element for good health and is critical to more than 300 biochemical reactions that occur in the body.

"Currently more than half of the US population does not consume an adequate amount of magnesium in their diet," said Alexey G. Ryazanov, Ph.D., one of the study's authors and a professor of pharmacology and member of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

"Magnesium deficiency may be associated with many medical disorders including hypertension, atherosclerosis, anxiety, asthma and a host of other disorders."

The team of researchers from the United States, France and Poland demonstrated for the first time that a protein called TRPM7 plays a key role in the maintenance of magnesium homeostasis (balance within the body) and is essential for proliferation of embryonic stem cells. TRPM7, which was previously discovered by the researchers, is unusual in that it consists of an ion channel fused to a protein kinase, a type of enzyme that chemically modifies other proteins. It is one of just two such proteins known to exist in vertebrate organisms.

"This has significant medical relevance," Ryazanov said. "Even though maintaining magnesium balance appears vital to good health, the molecular mechanisms for controlling magnesium are not well understood. Our research not only provides important clues about magnesium homeostasis but we were also able to show that adding magnesium can restart mouse embryonic stem cells that have stopped replicating because of a malfunction of TRPM7."

The researchers' findings appear in the current issue of Nature Communications. The study was supported by a Program Project Grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Source: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)

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