How do hormones control your life?

Hormones are defined as “chemicals produced by the body that control numerous bodily functions.” In the words of researcher Alexander Gil, of the Dr. Francisco J. Triana Alonso Biomedical Research Institute (BIOMED-UC), in Venezuela, they are “chemical substances that, traveling through the blood, communicate to the cells of an organ with the of another, with a specific purpose “. This biochemist, expert in sex hormones, warns that the idea that they always come from a gland “has been a little outdated”. Today it is known that a large number of organs produce them (from the brain to the fat cells of the whole body).

As for their mission, they are involved in mechanisms as diverse as growth, reproduction, memory and emotions, among many others. In fact, its global function is to coordinate the activity of the cells of different organs and maintain the homeostatic equilibrium, that is, to ensure that all vital parameters are maintained within a series of constants and we are healthy.

 However, for a hormone to send a message to a cell, there must be a receptor protein. If this fails, the cell does not receive the message and the consequences, in general, are disastrous for health. The same happens if something is not going well in its production, as in diabetes. Fortunately, since the physiologist William Bayliss introduced the term hormone in 1902, after the discovery of one of them, secretin, it soon became apparent that the artificial synthesis of these messengers could offer many advantages to the diseased organism.

The first medical use of adrenaline was for asthma and control of bleeding in surgery. Then, it was possible to synthesize thyroxine, which revolutionized the treatment of diseases such as cretinism and goiter. But if there is a hormone that has had a sustained influence on medicine, it is insulin, since Frederick Banting and John Macleod isolated it in 1926. Its discovery, recognized with a Nobel Prize, allowed its isolation and purification from extracts of the pancreas. of cows and pigs, to treat diabetes.

Currently, science works with hormones as a possible solution to brain injuries, obesity or heart damage. It even caresses the idea of using them to make the elixir of happiness. What we know about them is just a shadow of everything that remains to be discovered. Therefore, his study is far from finished.

The dopamine queen of pleasure

So that one of the multiple chemical messengers of the organism can be defined as a hormone is a necessary condition that uses the blood conduit to communicate different organs. Hence, there is some controversy about whether some neurotransmitters, whose main function is to carry messages between neurons, all in the brain, are hormones or not. With dopamine, there are no doubts. In addition to its important role as a neurotransmitter, it travels through the blood from the adrenal glands to different parts of the body. And those long tours also correspond to their multiple functions. But it is his role in emotions that has most attracted the attention of scientists in recent years. An experiment released in Nature Neuroscience showed how listening to music we like causes the secretion of dopamine. The same thing happens with the feeling of being in love.

Thyroxine, regulator of metabolism

Sometimes, a set of biochemical reactions is hidden behind the loss or exaggerated weight gain. When this happens, it is due to poor regulation of thyroxine, the main hormone secreted by the thyroid gland, which is located under the walnut and on the trachea. Its hyposecretion is responsible for slowing down the metabolism, which can produce weight gain, muscle weakness, increased sensitivity to cold, decreased heart rate and a loss of mental alert activities. When it is segregated in excess, the effects, equally undesirable, are just the opposite.

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