Peptide Primer: RNA Complexity and Your Operating Manual

May 06, 2019

References: Science News,NatureNature CommunicationsScience DirectWikipediaScience Direct,

Want to get absolutely lost in the world of biological complexity? Then a deep dive into peptides will suit you fine. If you think your body is a relatively simple machine that needs simple nutrients and support, you may need to reconsider. But let's give it a try at 30,000 feet to give you an overview of how complex your body is. 
First, what is a peptide? It is a short chain of amino acids. A protein is made by hooking up amino acids into long chains. A peptide is generally considered under 50 amino acids long. There are 20 amino acids used in humans. So, a peptide can be as short as two amino acids hooked together. Glutathione, our own natural internal antioxidant, is three amino acids long: a three amino acid peptide. Insulinis well known. It is a bit over the boundary of 50. It is 51 amino acids long. 

We have the DNA coding for about 22,000 proteins. That's what makes you, you. But that only takes up between 5-10% of your DNA. What is the other 90%? Till recently it was a mystery. That mystery is being revealed. You have the coding for 300,000 peptides. And very likely, many more RNA molecules. RNA is the intermediate step from DNA to a protein. Your cell DNA can copy itself into an RNA molecule that has the coding to make proteins or peptides. Those RNA molecules then are translated, just like computer code, into the manufacture of proteins, or peptides. That's what the other 90% of your genetic code is all about. 
The explosion of complexity around the making and regulation of small and large proteins, peptide and proteins, through RNA is mind-boggling. Not only is RNA in each cell, your body packages up RNA molecules and ships them all over in your blood in exosomes. Exosomes are so tiny we don't have machines that can measure them yet, but each cubic centimeter of blood likely has millions of them in it, each containing up to 20,000 various sized molecules. These little packages of information are being shipped from one cell to another where they pass on the genetic coding or turn on the manufacture of new peptides in other cells. In those other cells, the peptides turn on all sorts of biological behavior.

What is that in summary? Your micro-RNA and your peptides are your operating instructions, your owner's manual. Some RNA molecules turn into proteins, or peptides. Some RNA molecules block DNA expression. Some RNA molecules act like hormones themselves, turning on various processes. All the actions that make your body work, or get disease, can be traced to the actions of your DNA, expressed through your RNA, expressed through your peptides. 

What's the implications of all this? Nature isn't much interested in you what you have passed on your DNA. Time for the next generation to express itself. You may be interested in you, however. As you age, your hormones decline. And...just as importantly, your peptides decline. 
If you want to age well, if you want to avoid disease, if you want to fight cancer and dementia....you may need to have the operating instructions still operating. That takes understanding and managing your instruction manual properly. That takes being open to using new forms of therapy. Micro RNA and peptides are the means by which your body talks internally to itself when you are young. They are in decline as you age. It may be time to consider how to replace them.

WWW: What will work for me. The world of peptide therapy is a wide open, wild swirl of science and exploration. It's clear that these tiny little proteins are potent hormones and turn on all sorts of cellular processes. You had them once. If you are over 40 and feeling your age, you might well be running out of them and no longer in possession of all your faculties. I have an ache here and there. I broke a foot two years ago and still ache when I stand up. Can I get that better? Goodness, yes.

Pop Quiz

  1. What is a peptide? Answer: A short chain of amino acids, shorter than 50 amino acids long
  2. How many are there? Answer: Probably greater than 300,000, more than the 22,000 proteins that make up your unique genetic code
  3. What are they made from? Answer: Small messenger RNA molecules that are the template to translate them into the 20 amino acids human use.
  4. Where does the messenger RNA come from? Answer: The 90% of your DNA that doesn't code for your standard proteins.  RNA is copied off your DNA then transported to places where it has its impact.  
  5. What do peptides do? Answer: Along with the RNA, they compromise the complex web of operating instructions that tell your body what to do, when. And as you age, they decline.

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