Anatomy And Physiology

Anatomy Physiology

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Stress can be exhibited in different forms and the initial reaction of the body is the fight-or-flight response. When there is a threat approaching, there are two ways to address it- fight it or flee from it. It is the body's way to preserve itself. Its effects are manifested in the different changes the body undergoes. When the body perceives a threat, it sends signals through the different nerves in the body. Thus, the autonomic nervous system goes into an emergency-mode. This triggers response from the sympathetic nervous system which activates the neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the nerve cells that send signals to the other cells to prepare the body to act on threat. It can control heart rate, blood pressure and breathing to help the body cope with the threat.

As part of the body’s coping mechanisms, calcium is release during a fight-or-flight response. Scientists in the University of Washington have come up with a conceptual framework for calcium channel regulation in a fight-or-flight response. Calcium ions are stimulated during a fight-and-flight response through the enzymes. The result is an increased contractions in the skeletal and cardiac muscles. This explains the increased heart rate when the body is subjected to stressful situations.

Another study by a group of scientists from Columbia University explained how prolonged stress can release calcium that can cause cells to die.  Inside a cell is a structure called an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) which is responsible for several functions including calcium release. In the laboratory, mice that were subjected to an ER stressor, tunicamycin, show an elevated release of calcium. By understanding this mechanism, scientists gain better insights on how to protect cell death in different diseases.

Stress severely affects the heart. Because stress can trigger the nervous system to release calcium, it can trigger increase in heart contractions. Thus, drugs that are calcium channel blockers are often prescribed to patients with hypertension. A study by the scientists in the University of Calgary showed new insights how the nervous system regulates cellular activities. It showed how over-activity in the calcium channels have a negative impact in different diseases like hypertension. These channels regulate the amount of calcium needed in a chemical reaction thus influencing gene expression and different cellular functions.

The flight-or-fight response of the body in reaction to different stimuli is a natural self-preservation method to cope with stress. Such response becomes unhealthy when the body is subjected to it frequently or on extended periods. Chronic stress can lead to different diseases and should be avoided.


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