Zinc deficiency associated with cancer
According to a new study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, getting enough zinc in your diet may be crucial for preventing the development of cancer. Researchers found that zinc deficiency activates a pathway in the body that can lead to "uncontrolled cell growth and proliferation," according to lead author Chunyu Wang of the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.
This pathway is referred to, rather strangely, as the Hedgehog pathway, and is crucial for proper development of the embryo. However, if it's reactivated in adults, it can cause cells to reproduce and develop in a rapid, uncontrolled manner, leading to several types of cancer.
This study found that zinc was necessary to prevent the pathway from becoming activated by certain proteins. Zinc binds to these proteins when present in the necessary amount, keeping them from triggering the pathway into action.
"Normally, in adults, zinc will inhibit the production of the Hedgehog ligand, and therefore inhibit the Hedgehog pathway," Wang said in a statement. "But if there is a zinc deficiency, the pathway can be activated due to enhanced production of Hedgehog ligand. We show that zinc inhibits this autoprocessing reaction from the precursor to the ligand, providing an additional mechanism of how zinc deficiency may promote cancer development."
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