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transport proteins (eg, size, shape, amino acid sequence, tertiary and quatenary structures) may also determine specificity. As yet we lack this information for each of the specific proteins that bind the microminerals. In some instances a transport protein will carry more than one ion. An example is metallothionein, which will carry both zinc and copper. It will also carry some of the heavy metals, but its affinity for zinc and copper is greater than its affinity for heavy metals such as lead.

Many of the microminerals can be chelated by organic materials. Chelation is a common phenomenon in biological systems, and this process has many clinical applications. For example, EDTA is a potent chelator and is used to remove lead or other heavy metals from the body. It will also chelate calcium and magnesium, so the clinician using EDTA to treat lead overload will have to be aware of this feature as well. Penicillamine is another chelator of importance. It is used to remove excess copper, for example, in patients with genetically inherited Wilson's disease. 2,3-D-Dimercaptopropanol-1 is a chelator of lead, mercury, arsenic, copper, cadmium, tin, and other toxic metals. It sol-ubilizes these metals and chelates them, allowing for their excretion in the urine. Chelation is important to the biological function of several minerals. Examples are the chelation of cobalt within the structure of vitamin B12 and the chelation of iron within the structure of hemoglobin, as shown in Figure 2. In the B12 structure, chelation is a function of the many nitrogen molecules within this very large molecule.

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