“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.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of healthcare services with multiple locations throughout the state.