A group of researchers has discovered the molecular mechanism behind the human metabolism of selenium a trace element that is key to health and wellbeing.
It is believed selenium protects people from conditions such as mood swings, cardiovascular disease, viral infections and cancer, and selenocysteine is the most bioactive metabolite of selenium.
The team, which included scientist from Yale University and University of Illinois at Chicago, has described how selenocysteine is created on a super-sized tRNA molecule. The other 20 amino acids and their associated tRNAs use the same protein vehicle for transport to the ribosome, but selenocystine appears to have its own large tRNA that does so.
“Selenocysteine has been found to be a critical component of enzymes involved in a number of normal and disease processes,” says Michael Bender of the National Institutes of Healths National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
“This study could ultimately have an impact on many aspects of human health, including the immune response, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease, and cancer,” he adds.
For those who are concerned about their intake of selenium, nutritional supplements containing the element may be an option.