How Selenium Works in the Body – Effects on Cancer, Diabetes and Heart Disease – Healing Practice

Vital processes in selenium absorption decoded

For the first time, an international research team has deciphered which one vital processes in connection with Intake of the essential trace element selenium are connected. The findings could have implications for the treatment of many different conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease to influence.

A German-American working group was able to demonstrate this for the first time trace element selenium in 25 specialized proteins is installed. These proteins are involved in a variety of cellular and metabolic processes involved and therefore decisive for the general health. The corresponding study results were presented in the renowned journal “Science”.

Selenium is a vital trace element

Selenium it is vital trace element, which is found in soil, water and some foods. Among other things, there is grocery shop such as meat, fish, eggs, mushrooms, cabbage, onions, greens, lentils, asparagus and nuts.

More detailed explanation to date

As part of the current study, the researchers have now been able to explain in more detail how selenium gets to the places in the body where the trace element is needed. After all 25 Proteins I am therefore al transport of selenium involved.

According to the study, selenium is first obtained from the essential amino acid Selenocysteine encapsulated. The amino acid is then incorporated into 25 different proteins known as selenium proteins be designated.

Structures never seen before revealed

“This work has unearthed structures that have never been seen before, some of which are unique in all of biology.”emphasizes the author of the study Professor Paul Copeland from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

With the help of the most modern imaging technology, the so-called Kryo-Electron MicroscopyUsing electron beams instead of light, the team was able to generate three-dimensional images of complex biological formations with near-atomic resolution.

In this way, the scientists were able to understand the complex structures of proteins and other biomolecules to represent. By aligning thousands of images, one was created Stop-Motion-Animationshowing how these structures move and change.

How selenium gets to where it needs to be in the body

It was thus possible to document for the first time how the Incorporation of selenium into proteins occurs and what complex cellular machinery is used for it. It was already known which proteins and RNA molecules enable these processes.

However, it was previously unclear how the components involved interact. The study now shows for the first time an ongoing process than otherwise no other known processes in the human body is comparable.

It involves binding the amino acid selenocysteine ​​(SEC) to a unique RNA molecule that must be transported to the ribosome via a specialized protein factor, explains Professor Copeland, whose team spent 20 years trying to understand this process.

“And all of this has evolved in humans specifically so that selenium can be incorporated into this handful of proteins.”emphasizes the professor.

What selenium proteins do in the body

According to the working group, once SEC is incorporated into selenoproteins, the proteins satisfy a variety of vital functionsthat for growth and development are needed. For instance

  • produce building blocks of DNA, the so-called nucleotides,
  • breaking down or storing fat for energy
  • build cell membranes
  • produce thyroid hormone, which controls the metabolism of the human body,
  • selenium proteins react to oxidative stress by detoxifying by-products in the cells.

Relevant results for numerous diseases

And the The production of selenium proteins is disturbedit can be serious Diseases and diseases arise, underline the scientists involved. Diseases associated with reduced selenium protein production include, for example

“Understanding the mechanism by which SEC is absorbed is a key part of developing new therapies for a variety of diseases.”summary Copland.

Numerous institutions from Germany and the United States were involved in the study, including Rutgers University in New Jersey, the Institute for Medical Physics and Biophysics in Berlin, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin and the University of Illinois to Chicago. (vb)

Information on the author and source

This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by medical professionals.


Graduate Publisher (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Paul Copeland, Tarek Hilal, Benjamin Y. Killam et al .: Mammalian ribosome structure as it decodes the selenocysteine ​​UGA codon; in: Science (2022),
  • Rutgers University: the machinery of vital cells behind the incorporation of selenium into the human body seen for the first time (veröffentlicht: 20.06.2022),
  • Public health portal in Austria: selenium (accessed: 21.06.2022),

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and is not to be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.

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