What is The Magnesium Project?
The Magnesium Project models itself after other major scientific endeavors
such as The Human Genome Project, The Human Proteome Project and others.
Projects of such scale require the collaboration of many scientists and
institutions throughout the world. The spin-off knowledge, technology and
products from such projects has and will continue to be substantial. We believe
the Magnesium Project may not be on the same scale as the Human Genome Project
for example but it will nonetheless have important spin-offs in the fields of
science and medicine. We believe that some of those spin-offs will come in
the form of learning new ways of collaborating, of sharing information, of
developing unifying models, and of facilitating technology transfer to
commercially viable products and services.
Magnesium in its ionic form is one of the essential electrolytes in all life
forms. It plays a key role in membrane integrity, in cross-membrane
transport systems and in stability of numerous enzymes and biochemical
compounds. To date we know that there are hormones or other regulatory
chemicals (including ion channel proteins) responsible for influencing the update, discharge and activity of the
other primary cationic electrolytes in the body, sodium, potassium and calcium.
However, there has been relatively little effort to identify an equivalent
hormone playing such a role in magnesium utilization. We have coined the
term Magnetonin for this missing hormone. In fact, by analogy with
calcium and calcitonin there are likely to be a number of missing regulatory
proteins and pathways including for example a peptide hormone releasing factor
and magnesium level sensors linked to a signaling pathway that turns on a
genetic code to initiate production of Magnetonin.
Magnesium is involved in other ways in plants and lower life
forms. It plays a role in activation of many different enzymes (including
a large group of kinases), phosphorylases, transferases and signaling proteins.
It serves a chelating role and is key in complexing with the porphyrin groups of
What are the Potential Implications?
Muscle and nerve membranes, so-called excitable tissues, are very likely
to be impacted by inadequate regulation of magnesium. There are many nerve
and muscle diseases that could be treated by the yet to be discovered
Diseases such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimers,
Parkinson's, et al. are all based on nerve or muscle function. The
regulation of cell division may also be susceptible to magnesium metabolism
deficiencies thus opening up the possibility of an underlying link with cancer.
Metabolic disorders and immune system malfunctions also have enzymes in their
metabolic pathways that are Mg-dependent. Thus, the implications are
expected to be very broad.
To learn more about the the various diseases for which Magnesium regulation
may play a role click on Diseases.
Also, see a featured disease under the
Women's Health Initiative
that addresses Hypertension and the related diseases of
eclampsia that are often associated with pregnancy. Other conditions under
this Initiative include special nutritional needs of women during pregnancy
including vitamin and mineral supplements. At present a survey of women on
their experiences with obtaining nutritional information to assure a healthy
child and a healthy mother is being conducted.
Our research and educational initiatives have extended
implications regarding diet and nutrition in general; since there is evidence
that even in America and other developed countries a large percentage of the
population have inadequate levels of magnesium in their diet resulting in
hypomagnesemia. For lesser
developed countries the incidence of hypomagnesemia is much higher. This
means a significant portion of the population could be more susceptible to a
myriad of diseases which has implications for health care costs as well as
quality of life and productivity.
As indicated, Mg plays in important biochemical role in plants
and lower life forms as well. Reaching a better understanding of Mg
biochemistry in these systems could have profound implications on food sources,
agriculture and microbiology as well as the impact on human health as outlined
How Is This Being Implemented?
Implementation is taking place with the use of dozens of volunteers from across
the country. We are developing multiple web sites to address specific
areas and facilitate sharing of information. A
Magnesium Portal is one
such site that is under development. Another is a site dedicated to the
discovery of and effects of a magnesium regulating hormone,
Magnetonin. Gathering, sharing and
analyzing large amounts of diverse information will provide the basis for
launching new research projects to accelerate the discovery process.
A number of databases are under development including the
Bibliography of scientific articles on magnesium research
Disease specific databases of references (pre-eclampsia/eclampsia,
Research institutions and scientists engaged in Mg research
Methodologies for detection and monitoring minerals
Proteins/enzymes that are Mg-dependent (most kinases)
Clinical studies including translational research best practices
Food sources for increasing Mg intake
In addition to developing a better understanding of magnesium regulation and
the role of ionic magnesium in normal cell functions in general, we expect to
develop analytical and collaborative tools that will accelerate the discovery
and commercialization of new treatments in other areas of research as well.
Another component of implementation is an educational initiative
to inform consumers as well as health care providers and policy makers about the
importance of magnesium in one's diet and the importance of monitoring Mg levels
in the blood just as other electrolyte levels are now regularly monitored.
Another educational and services initiative is in developing
tutorials on systems behavior such as feedback and control loops that are
normally operative in biological systems. Some of these may be implemented
as software programs that are illustrated on the web. For applications to
understanding health and disease see the Health Care Initiatives.
How Can I Get Involved?
Sharing of information is a vital part of our program. However, beyond
that, we need to develop models and means to test hypotheses in the laboratory
and in large populations. We need to develop better tools to measure ionic
magnesium levels in tissues in real time. We need software tools to
analyze large amounts of data collected in many different forms and formats.
We need scientists in academic, government and commercial laboratories to
isolate and identify new molecules and we need pharmaceutical firms to provide
scale up of production of new compounds and to sponsor clinical studies to
achieve regulatory approvals for distribution. As part of this effort we
will also need clinicians to participate in studies and report findings.
The general public can become involved by participating in studies and
sharing medical records and other profile information that will allow us to find
novel patterns of correlating abnormalities in magnesium regulation (such as
under or over-production of magnetonin or its antagonists and agonists) to the
occurrence of various diseases.
We also need financial support to maintain the growing databases, develop
computer models, conduct research and to support investigators who will mine
these databases for new insights and discovery of regulatory pathways for
magnesium and associated components.
Contact the Program
Director for further details.
Please check out our
initiatives and related projects.