In the spirit of finals week, I think about a discussion on the MAPK pathway in my neurochemistry course, and the first thing that comes to mind is not a particular enzyme or disorder, but instead I think about my greatest fear. Could it be a final exam? Could it be not getting that particular job after graduation? No, my greatest fear, which is commonly shared by many people, is losing my sense of control. It is this idea of “losing control” which then builds into the things that can go wrong along the MAPK pathway. Imagine not being able to remember any of your loved ones, or not being able to control your body because you have involuntary movements. Diseases responsible for these types of feelings, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS (Lou Gerhig’s Disease, all can result from abnormalities and disregulation of the MAPK pathway.
What can cause disregulation of this pathway? Oxidative stress; it is something that seems to come up on a weekly basis in our classroom discussions. Free radicals present inside the bodies that are left unchecked by defense/clean up mechanisms can cause a lot of damage to a variety of different cellular processes. It is a very difficult task to limit the amount of oxidative stress on the human body, and specifically in the MAPK pathway.
The MAPK pathway is comprised of countless intricate proteins, receptors, and other subunits that can apply to any number of processes within the cell. In order for researchers to try and tinker or change certain parts of the pathway to protect us from diseases caused by oxidative stress, they run the risk of negatively affecting other mechanisms which are dependent on the products of the MAPK pathway.
So even after science has uncovered linkages between the MAPK pathway and these serious illnesses there is little that can be altered now as far as cellular mechanisms. The complexity of the human brain strikes again! However, I should not fool myself or anyone else into thinking that a defect in the MAPK pathway of the brain is the only way to get Alzheimer’s, because as we learned earlier in the semester there also may be a link between Alzheimer’s and insulin resistance. So for now all one can do are the little things; just like during finals week. Little things like eating healthier once in a while and adding some anti-oxidants into my diet may prove to go a long way. So would studying for that final exam.