Aquaporins The Proteins That Keep You Hydrated
As humans, we are mostly made of water.
Babies are 78% water, and most adults are 55-60%. In a way, we’re all glorified cucumbers. As we age, average water content can drop to 47-56%. Water helps us maintain our body temperature, fluid levels, helps us digest our food, power our muscles, keeps our skin, brain, heart, kidneys, and other organs healthy, and so much more. While it is crucial to stay hydrated, there is much misinformation about how our bodies retain and use the water we drink.
Popular myths about drinking eight glasses or a gallon (16 glasses) a day are simply not true. Balancing the amount of water in our cells is a delicate, fine-tuned orchestra with our kidneys acting as the orchestrator. Aquaporins, a highly selective group of proteins in our kidneys and other cells, purify and permit only the right amount of water to move in and out – no matter how much water we drink. All excess water is eliminated in our urine.
Aquaporins are the water filters and water channels of our cells. When these proteins get a signal from the right hormone, they leap into action. Groups of aquaporins form extremely narrow passages in our cell membranes to allow only water molecules to pass. Almost all other ions, molecules, minerals, and toxins like lead and bacteria are kept out. This way, the water that travels between our cells is crystal-clear and pure.
The Nobel Prize-winning discovery of Aquaporins in 2003 has the potential to change the world. People in developed and developing countries need better drinking water. For example, in the United States, Flint (Michigan) made the headlines in 2016 for its contaminated water. But millions more in other cities and towns have rusty pipes that pollute their drinking water with lead. The water system in the United States recently received a ‘D’ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
Another rising water pollution crisis is that of PFAs. PFAs, also known as ‘forever chemicals,’ can take over a hundred and even thousand years to break down. They can accumulate in our bodies and cause high cholesterol, thyroid issues, miscarriages, kidney cancer, and many other health issues. The CDC in the US (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) detected PFAs in the blood in almost everyone they tested. While the water in the United Kingdom is relatively safe to drink, the UK government does not test for PFAs.
Other countries like Australia, Italy, and many more face the same issue. Globally, 2 billion people drink water contaminated with feces (WHO). Water contamination can cause diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, and more. Each year, it is responsible for ~500,000 deaths worldwide.
Switching over to the bottled water solutions currently available is not the answer. Most bottled water is processed and treated tap water – not fresh spring water directly from a snow-covered mountain, as advertising may claim. Plastic bottles take thousands of years to degrade, and it takes three times more water to package a bottle versus the amount of water actually in the bottle. Bottled water is also incredibly expensive and not a practical option in many parts of the world.
Scientists around the world are working on providing clean drinking water by harnessing the ultra-filtration power of Aquaporins. This powerful filtration is due to a positive and negative charge that helps attract water molecules through Aquaporin channels. This property of Aquaporins is being used to create powerful water filters and even ‘structured water’ or ‘hexagonal water’. Because our tap and bottled water is impure and chemically treated, water structuring devices alter the ‘shape of water’ by creating clusters of water molecules in a hexagon with the molecular structure H3O2. The three hydrogen molecules are designed to increase the absorption of water into cells. The goal is to promote deep intra-cell hydration by with an increase nutrient absorption, improve cell-to-cell communication, and eliminate toxins to help our cells stay hydrated and rejuvenated.