The TCA cycle occurs in the mitochondria of cells. The mitochondria are responsible for many things, primarily:
- Deciding Cell Death (out with the old, in with the new)
- Gene expression (cell’s response and adaptation)
- Catabolic switch (what happens when you digest food and the molecules break down in the body for use as energy)
- Inflammation (immune system activation)
- Cell fate and function through the TCA Cycle metabolites
That last bullet point is what we will focus on – Cell fate and function. This is huge! The TCA cycle influences huge things for us to live optimally:
- Lymphangiogenesis: This is a stage of new lymphatic vessel formation, which is very important for immune system modulation
- Stem cell function: Stem cells are the body’s raw materials — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated, which is also very important for immune system modulation
- Thermogenesis: when your body burns calories to digest food. The thermic effect of food is the energy needed to digest, absorb, and extract nutrients from food. This is also very important for immune system modulation.
- Tumorigenesis: Human tumorigenesis is when mutations happen in cells. These mutations can affect genes that help prevent tumors, as well as genes that cause tumors. Very important in immune system modulation
In the very first episode of Dr. Seeds’ podcast, he explained why the immune system is everything. It’s not just about defense from a cold, it’s about the body’s response to everything that happens in the day – mental stress, exercise, eating, falling, everything. Your immune system needs the energy to function optimally – this requires ATP (cell energy). And ATP is created by the TCA cycle.
This is why I think it’s Dr. Seeds’ favorite cycle. I may have also heard him say it before, but I feel like he says that about all cell pathways… Perhaps he has several favorites, but this one is definitely up there. I think it’s because he’s all about cell optimization, and you can’t have optimization (only desperation) if there isn’t enough energy to go around.
When people talk about NAD being the major energy creator or feeling soooooo good about NAD– just imagine how good you’ll feel when you actually work on improving the energy that your cells need to function the best way possible…
Back to the TCA cycle!
We can’t discuss the TCA cycle without talking about the mic drop that Dr. Seeds gave us at his last senescence summit– α-ketoglutarate.
α-KG is a substrate of the TCA cycle that influences vital cellular processes:
- α-KG is a key substance that helps the body respond to low levels of oxygen.
- α-KG from the TCA cycle helps to keep HIF-α stable. HIF genes are important for different things in the body, like how the body uses energy, makes blood, fights infection, and how cancer cells spread.
- α-KG helps the body in different ways by controlling epigenetic changes. This is especially exciting when looking through the lens of disease prevention.
Metabolites from the TCA cycle help to control how well (or unwell) our bodies work. In the next few years, researchers are going to be very interested in learning more about how these metabolites communicate with different parts of the body. Recent findings suggest that derivatives of TCA cycle metabolites may help to treat inflammatory diseases in humans. We hope that these findings will be translated into clinical treatments soon. We predict that metabolites from the TCA cycle will continue to teach us new things about biology, physiology, and diseases.