Ammonia (NH3) is produced by cells located throughout the body; most of the production occurring in the intestines, liver, and the kidney, where it is used to produce urea. Ammonia is particularly toxic to brain cells, and high levels of blood ammonia can also lead to organ failure. The imaginary organelle referred to as a hydrosome functions in a manner that decreases the blood ammonia levels in people, thereby circumventing the need for medications such as to treatment to prevent hepatic encephalopathy and conditions associated with a failing liver. The hydrosome functions similarly to a primary lysosome, also containing a highly acidic interior with lytic enzymes called hydrolases. However, the waste disposal that the hydrosome conducts serves to convert ammonia to a water-soluble waste that is then excreted by the kidneys.
About this Organelle
I came up with the idea for this organelle because many diseases and disorders appear to be associated with high blood ammonia levels, and because hyperammonemia is a life-threatening medical emergency. If the human body contained an organelle with the capacity and function to reduce high levels of ammonia in the blood, it would be a tremendous help to people who have damaged livers or have contracted a disease that results in symptomatic high blood ammonia (Prasad, et al., 2007). Several drugs are useful in the treatment of hyperammonemia, including benzoate and phenylacetate (Prasad, et al., 2007). Both of these medications work by converting ammonia into water-soluble forms that the kidneys eliminate effectively (Prasad, et al., 2007).
The imagined organelle is referred to a hydrosome, as it functions similarly to a lysosome, and also contains a highly acidic interior with lytic enzymes called hydrolases, just as the lysosome does ("Interactive Concepts"). However, the waste disposal that the hydrosome conducts serves to convert ammonia to a water-soluble waste ("Interactive Concepts"). The hydrosome specializes in the breakdown of protein, which in turn triggers conversion of the ammonia by product ("Interactive Concepts"). In other words, the hydrosome enables the body to utilize proteins by breaking them down through the action of a specialized enzyme complex, but the hydrosome completes the process by eliminating the ammonia byproduct ("Interactive Concepts"). Here, the benefit of a labeled eukaryotic cell is apparent, as the cell could not survive the action of destructive enzymes without their containment in the membrane-bound lysosome. ("Interactive Concepts").
The inspiration for this imaginary organelle is the laxative called Lactulose that has a secondary use for the treatment of hepatic encephalopathy (Sharma, et al., 2009). However, the realism of a lactulose treatment regimen is questionable as it induces unstable bowel functioning and creates substantive social and management difficulties for the patient (Sharma, et al., 2009). A more acceptable, less intrusive way to address high blood ammonia levels in individual experiencing cirrhosis of the liver is highly desirable (Sharma, et al., 2009). Suspending disbelief -- as one does when watching a fantastical movie -- imagine that the cells of the body hold the answer to addressing potential liver failure (Sharma, et al., 2009). In this scenario, the organelle known as hydrosome makes radical drug therapies unnecessary.
Lactulose works to reduce the bacterial production of ammonia in the intestines, and the draws ammonia from the blood to the colon, from which it is purged with waste (Sharma, et al., 2009). Hydrosome acts in a more direct manner, acting directly on the proteins and the waste product of the protein breakdown (Sharma, et al., 2009). The membrane-bound hydrosome organelles are co-located within eukaryotic cells with lysosomes, to which they are morphologically similar (Sharma, et al., 2009). In the same manner as lysosomes, hydrosomes use endocytosis to engulf and break down proteins ("Interactive Concepts").
The enzymes complex releases a compound functions chemically like sodium phenylacetate and sodium benzoate, and that serves as an alternative to urea for the excretion of nitrogen waste (Batshaw, et al., 2001; Haberle, et al., 2012). The released compound has a nitrogen content that is identical to that of urea (i.e., two moles of nitrogen) (Batshaw, et al., 2001; Haberle, et al., 2012). Two moles of nitrogen are removed per mole of the phenylacetate-like compound that is conjugated with glutamine. One mole of nitrogen is removed per mole of the benzoate-like conjugated with glycine (Batshaw, et al., 2001; Haberle, et al., 2012). Both the glutamine and the glycine that are "used in these reactions are replaced by synthesis, which has the effect of reducing the nitrogen pool and attenuating the risk of ammonia and glutamine-induced neurotoxicity" (Batshaw, et al., 2001; Haberle, et al., 2012).
Ammonia (NH3) is produced by cells located throughout the body, with most of the production occurring in the intestines, kidney, or liver (Sharma, et al., 2009). A majority of the urea produced by the body is used in the production of urea (Sharma, et al., 2009). Both urea and ammonia are waste products, but ammonia is considerably more toxic to the brain than urea (Sharma, et al., 2009). Ammonia is particularly toxic to brain cells; high levels of blood ammonia can cause a person to feel lethargic, confusion, and can also lead to a coma (Sharma, et al., 2009). High levels of blood ammonia can also lead to organ failure (Sharma, et al., 2009).
Elevated levels of ammonia (hyperammonemia) is a condition associated with a number of disorders, including liver failure (commonly from hepatitis or cirrhosis: hepatic encephalopathy), congestive heart failure, leukemia, gastrointestinal bleeding (usually in the upper GI tract), low blood potassium level (hypokalemia), metabolic alkalosis, high body temperature (hyperthermia), Reye Syndrome, and severe muscle exertion (Sharma, et al., 2009).
A number of drugs can cause false readings of blood ammonia levels, including alcohol, narcotics, acetazolamide, and valproic acid (Sharma, et al., 2009). A diet that is high in protein can also raise the blood ammonia levels as ammonia is created when the body breaks down protein (Sharma, et al., 2009).
The functioning of hydrosome organelle could preclude the course of urea cycle disorders (UCDs), or the birth defect that cause "errors of nitrogen detoxification / arginine synthesis due to defects in the urea cycle enzymes, carbamoylphosphate synthetase 1 (CPS1), ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC), argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS), argininosuccinate lyase (ASL) and arginase 1 (ARG1), leading to respective deficiencies" (Haberle, et al., 2012).
The cell functions like an agile factory that makes products needed in different cells in all parts of the body. It takes energy to make the products and deliver them appropriately and the whole process takes blueprints for guidance. The hydrosome organelle must function perfectly in harmony with the many other organelles in the cell, including: the nucleus, mitochondria, chloroplast, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi body, ribosome, and lysome and vacuole ("Interactive Concepts"). Consider that the cells need protein for new tissue growth and for repairing any damaged tissue ("Interactive Concepts"). RNA carries a copy of the DNA code that is retained in the nucleus ("Interactive Concepts"). The RNA travels into the cytosol where it is helped to transfer the protein code to ribosomes that are attached to the endoplasmic reticulum ("Interactive Concepts"). Using the amino acids, the ribosomes build the correct protein ("Interactive Concepts"). The protein picks up a carbon sugar and other materials in the endoplasmic reticulum, then it is sent to the Golgi for final packaging in a bubble-like sac and is sent to its destination ("Interactive Concepts"). Occasionally, a cell improperly makes a protein and the incorrect protein merges with a lysosome where it is destroyed ("Interactive Concepts"). The hydrosome functions in much the same way as and in concert with the lysosome ("Interactive Concepts"). When the hydrosome destroys the protein, however, instead of simply breaking down the protein and releasing ammonia, the hydrosome goes a step further and alters the ammonia into a water-soluble substance ("Interactive Concepts").