Calcification is a biological process by which calcium is deposited in tissues that normally do not contain any. This phenomenon is linked to many diseases, notably arthritis and the hardening of arteries. For the very first time, a group of researchers from McGill University has been able to scientifically prove the existence of a biological mechanism that controls calcification.
According to these Montreal researchers, a small molecule called pyrophosphate (PPi) prevents calcification by binding itself to mineral crystals and increasing levels of an inhibitory protein called osteopontin. Pyrophosphate blocks the activity of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatise whose role is to take organic phosphate and bind it with calcium, creating deposits that will harden tissues.
Pyrophosphate and osteopontin work in conjunction to keep bones and teeth healthy by ensuring a balance between concentrations of phosphorus and of calcium. When an imbalance occurs, we can observe, depending on the case, excessive or deficient calcification. While excessive calcification leads to calcium deposits in tissues that usually do not contain any, like joints and blood vessels, deficient calcification provokes softening of bones and teeth.
A greater understanding of the calcification phenomenon and of the roles played by various molecules could lead to the development of treatments that could take advantage of the body’s natural inhibitors. This is a ray of hope for people grappling with very painful diseases that still elude treatment.