It starts when something stresses you: air pollution, or a virus, or your boss. Your cells launch into repair-and-recovery mode. As part of that process, the body produces proteins that help rebuild your cells and RNA, the chemical messengers that trigger the release of health-promoting compounds. These RNA agents carry out the repair process by clumping together, forming stress granules.
When they do their job properly, these particles protect the cells from damage, essentially creating a temporary shelter so the body can better repair itself. Once the stressor is gone, the stress granules are easily swept away, typically in just 10-15 minutes.
Normal cell on left. Cell with stress granules (in yellow) on right.
But when something interferes with the cleanup operation, stress granules accumulate. That build-up may be linked to Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease.
Scientists don't know for sure why the cleanup operation is aborted. Suspects include nutritional deficiencies, chronic disease, or living in a heavily polluted area.
On-going stress is another potential suspect. When you're under pressure, your body releases hormones called glucocorticoids. One theory is that constant exposure to high levels of these hormones can result in stress granules accumulating, which leads to the neuronal atrophy and degeneration that's characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.
Stress Granules and toxic Tau Tangles
The bottom line: You need to get rid of these particles before they cause harm. Check back next week for strategies to combat stress.
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