Hitting the Reset Button
We have all experienced a computer, tablet, or phone that was running slowly or had programs malfunctioning. Eventually, our frustration leads us to restart the device. This initiates an internal reset that allows the device to function better.
Our bodies have a similar reset function. We know that sleep, for instance, provides a similar reset to restarting a computer device. Are there other biological reset buttons we can push that offer similar renewing effects for our bodies?
Yes—and it starts at the cellular level.
Renewal is defined as:
1. The action of extending the period of validity or function;
2. The replacing or repairing of something that is worn out, run down, or broken.
In asking questions about cellular renewal, we might first ask, “How long do cells live?” And the short answer is, it varies.
Skin cells live about three to four weeks. Red blood cells live about three months. Colon cells live about four days. In contrast, nerve cells and some muscle cells last a lifetime. This is why nerve damage from spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s can have such devastating and irreparable effects.
The fact that some cells have a very short existence and are frequently replaced while other must last us a lifetime means we have essential biological signaling events that control which cells must be protected and which cells require rapid turnover. In each case, cellular renewal is necessary, whether it is extending the life of a cell or replacing one that is worn out.
Biological Renewal – Cellular Replacement
Why are some cells retained throughout life while others are rapidly replaced? One hypothesis suggests that rapid replacement of cells happens because of constant exposure to environmental toxins—toxins that could cause long-term damage if there were no cellular replacement (doi: 10.1002/cphy.c120020; doi: 10.1038/sj.jid.5700008). Skin cells, colon cells, and red blood cells all fit into this category.
Skin cells are frequently exposed to ultraviolet light damage and other environmental toxins. Their death and replacement minimize the potential to get skin cancer from ultraviolet light exposure.
Colon cells are exposed to the waste products found in our diet and over time could accumulate dangerous levels of toxins. The death and excretion of colon cells from the body prevents absorption of toxins into the body.
Red blood cells transport oxygen, but oxygen can cause oxidative stress. The turnover of red blood cells occurs before oxidative stress can prevent them from performing their oxygen transport responsibilities.
Hitting the reset button on these types of cells allows the skin to function properly as a protective barrier, the digestive tract to properly absorb nutrients, and the circulatory system to transport oxygen throughout the body.
Biological Renewal – Extending Cellular Function
The renewal of cells that last a lifetime is also important. Interesting hypotheses exist for why neuronal and muscle cells last a lifetime instead of being replaced, as with the other cell types we have discussed. Brain neurons store memories, so in theory the process of turnover could cause memory loss. Athletes rely on muscle memory and the coordination of neuronal signaling, so it may be that physical action requires us to maintain neurons and muscle cells throughout our lives.
One explanation for neurodegenerative diseases is that they result from damage caused by a lifetime of exposure to oxidative stress. A deeper explanation acknowledges that our bodies have protective mechanisms in place to shield us against oxidative stress—but, with age, these systems fail, and without their protection, we succumb to the effects of oxidative stress.
Early research on cellular renewal targeted antioxidants as the way to combat oxidative stress. Molecules present in fruit and vegetables, such as vitamin C, showed promising protective effects. Foods with potent antioxidant properties show beneficial health effects, but it has been difficult to define exactly how these molecules cause the beneficial biological effect.
Cutting-edge research over the last few years has identified how our bodies protect themselves against oxidative stress. Scientists have found protective genes that, when activated, make enzymes that inactivate oxidative stress molecules. Redox signaling activates a response called the Anti-oxidant Response Element (ARE) in our bodies (DOI: 10.1002/med.21396). The ARE activates a series of enzymes that protect us against oxidative stress and damage associated with radicals. Nrf2 is an important signaling molecule that activates the ARE (doi: 10.1074/jbc.R900010200). Other protective genes have been found that repair damage caused by oxidative stress molecules and help to restore the cells to a functioning level that existed before the oxidative damage occurred.
The antioxidant signaling molecules present in the fruits and vegetables discussed above activate some of these positive benefits, leading scientists to examine new signaling pathways in biology. If antioxidants are signaling molecules, do oxidants also act as signaling molecules? It turns out that this is, in fact, the case, and many oxidants are even more potent signaling molecules than antioxidants with essential biological function. Discoveries like these have opened up a new field in biochemistry called redox signaling.
ASEA Redox Supplement and RENU 28
Redox molecules like the ones present in ASEA Redox Supplement and RENU 28 are produced biologically by white blood cells in response to systemic stress. The signals sent by the white blood cells are protective in nature and signal for the body to respond to a stressor and to initiate repair. Scientists are actively examining the biological pathways that are activated by these signals, and current data indicates that redox-signaling molecules have potent protective effects in the body (http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2016.00241).
Based on that preliminary research, the redox signaling molecules found in these products actively support the body’s natural cell renewal processes and could offer a way to help you hit your own reset button.