Rebekah Eliason for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Previously, scientists have considered twenty-seven elements to be essential for human life. Recently they have discovered bromine to be the twenty-eighth essential element.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University have shown for the first time that, out of the 92 naturally occurring elements, bromine is essential for tissue development in all animals ranging from sea creatures to humans.
“Without bromine, there are no animals. That’s the discovery,” said Billy Hudson, Ph.D., the paper’s senior author and Elliott V. Newman Professor of Medicine.
Led by co-first authors Scott McCall, Christopher Cummings, Ph.D., and Gautam (Jay) Bhave, M.D., Ph.D., the research team discovered that fruit flies perish without bromine in their diet, but live when it is present.
This discovery is important for treating human disease. “Multiple patient groups … have been shown to be bromine deficient,” said McCall, an M.D./Ph.D. student. Patients on dialysis or total parenteral nutrient (TPN) may improve with bromine supplementation.
This study is part of series of papers published by the Vanderbilt team which have improved the definition of collagen IV scaffolds that undergird the basement membrane of all tissues, including kidney filtration units.
Hudson noted that the foundation for this current discovery started 30 years ago when he was at the University of Kansas Medical School.
His interest in two rare kidney diseases led to the discovery of two new proteins that twist around each other forming the triple-helical collagen IV molecule. This unique structure acts similar to cables supporting a bridge. When these protein cables are defective or damaged disease often follows.
In 2002 Hudson moved to Vanderbilt and continued his work.
In 2009, a study led by Roberto Vanacore, Ph.D. discovered a sulflimine bond between sulfur and nitrogen atoms. This bond acted as a “fastener” to connect the collagen IV molecules which form scaffolds for cells.
It was also discovered that a defective bond possibly triggers Goodpasture’s syndrome, which is a rare auto-immune disorder. Because of the bond discovery, researchers wanted to know how the bond is formed. In 2012, Bhave, assistant professor of Medicine, Cummings and Vanacore led a team of researchers and discovered the answer is enzyme peroxidasin.
If this enzyme becomes overactive, it may play a role in disease by excessive deposition of collagen IV and thickening of the basement membrane, which can cause impaired kidney function.
In this current study, researchers showed the essential and unique role of ionic bromide to enable peroxidasin to form the sulfilimine bond.
The authors report that consequently, the element bromine is “essential for animal development and tissue architecture.”
This study was published in the journal Cell.