A new study from a research team at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and Duke University has made a breakthrough discovery about how the brain detects and prevents dehydration.
The study was published on Oct. 6 in the academic journal Cell Reports, and the major finding focused on the structure of a specific protein in the human brain that regulates hydration and temperature for the entire body.
According to Tech Times and the Dispatch Tribunal, scientists previously had no clue how the brain managed to measure and control temperature throughout the body, thereby causing certain responses (like sweating or thirst) to regulate hydration and warmth.
The research team stated that the discovery could yield important developments and treatments for health conditions that focus on fluid imbalances on the body, like extreme dehydration or hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).
A condition like hyperhidrosis, for example, has plenty of effective treatments, but the only permanent options tend to be incredibly expensive and invasive.
“The discoveries found in this study may lead to many promising new treatment methods for hyperhidrosis,” says Christopher J Ligi, Director of Sales, Hidrex USA, LLC. “Currently, many people explore Endoscopic Thoracic Sympathectomy (ETS) surgery as an option for their hyperhidrosis without knowing all of the downfalls of surgery or the other current options available. A safe, proven, and cost-effective treatment method called tap water iontophoresis has been used in Europe for over 35 years and is just now becoming more utilized in the US. Many ETS patients wish they had tried tap water iontophoresis as a treatment option before they had surgery or other alternatives such as Botox injections. We recommend that hyperhidrosis sufferers explore all alternative treatments, such as tap water iontophoresis, and to know the risks of any surgery (through research, not just by their surgeon), before ever considering it.”
Although it could take a while for any treatments to surface for bodily fluid imbalances, the researchers from RI-MUHC and Duke have stated that their initial discovery is just the beginning.
Dr. Charles Bourque, lead author of the study and researcher at McGill, stated that the team is looking into how the protein, an “ion channel that regulates the flow of ions across the cell membrane,” is involved in regulating water, sodium, and temperature in cells.
As the leading cause of emergency room visits, fluid imbalances (mostly dehydration) end up being pretty expensive and dangerous for patients; even a small improvement in preventative treatment could save countless lives.
“We have identified what we think is the first protein that could allow the brain to monitor physiological temperature,” said Dr. Bourque, “and it is important because this protein contributes to how the brain detects heat and triggers adaptive responses such as thirst.”
“This protein… is thought to play a crucial role in balancing body fluids (water, blood, etc.) and sodium (salts) levels, and changes in its regulation could be involved in linking salt to hypertension, and provoking fluid retention following cardiac failure, sepsis or brain trauma.”