Significance of pH
Asked by: jat-ga
List Price: $10.00
26 Aug 2002 17:57 PDT
Expires: 25 Sep 2002 17:57 PDT
Question ID: 58848
Can you give me a good way to understand, explain and illustrate what pH is and what it means, chemically speaking? Where I'm headed with this is to try to get a better understanding how and in what way pH is significant to the biochemical functions of the body...
Re: Significance of pH
Answered By: rcd-ga on 26 Aug 2002 21:42 PDT
Hello jat-ga Thank you for your good question about pH. The dictionary definition of pH will tell you that it is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution. It's really how much or how little hydrogen ions in a solution that determines where it lies on the pH scale. The more hydrogen ions the more acidic the solution is, the less hydrogen ions the more alkali the solution. The concise medical dictionary has this definition at http://www.xrefer.com/entry.jsp?xrefid=128489&secid=.- With a slightly more technical defintion from the The Macmillan Encyclopedia 2001 at http://www.xrefer.com/entry/512591 Which talks a little more about the pH scale But I guess what you're really asking is more about how hydrogen ions floating around in the body and interacting in various biochemical reactions actually does anything? Think about hydrogen ions as being these charged up reactive particles, sort of like reved up engines. In fact a hydrogen ion is positively charged as it has lost it's only electron, so really it's just a proton whizzing around, it desperately wants to get hooked up with some electrons. One really important place that hydrogen ions get 'used' or rather 'moved' is in the mitochondria (the little power house of the cell) In this mitochondrian these hydrogen ions are pumped between two membranes. This sets up a difference in concentration of hydrogen ions (that pH scale) so one side of the membrane has lots of hydrogen ions . The mitochondria can then let some hydrogens pass through special proteins and in the process transfer all that hydrogen ion energy into a useful energy molecule called ATP that can then go around the cell to do other useful things (like contract muscles). This situation is very similar to a dam and hydroelectric station. As the water from the dam rushes through the turbine it creates electricity. In the mitochondria it is not a large volume of water but rather a difference in hydrogen ion concentration. It's simialr to the way a battery works also,one part of the battery has more electrons than the other and they all want to rush and spread out but if you use a wire you can control how they get through. Mitochondria are like a battery in some way they have a positive and negative part to them. You can see a picture of this at http://cellbio.utmb.edu/cellbio/mitochondria_1.htm But they call it a "large electrochemical proton gradient" Which just means a big difference in pH from one side to the other side. So it's really important that the pH is correct in different parts so of the body or cells sol they can function properly, especially the mitochondria. Should you have any further questions or if I can clarify anything please don't hesistate to ask. I have a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology and I'm happy to explain in more detail. search strategy google pH explained mitochondria hydrogen concentration www.xrefer.com pH For nice images of the pH scale try http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&lr=&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=pH+scale
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