Bromine found to be essential to human life

In 2014, a team of Vanderbilt University researchers added bromine to the list of elements vital for life. What is its purpose? And why is bromine essential to life in humans and other animals?


Some background information on bromine

Bromine, chemical symbol Br and atomic number 35, is a reddish-brown liquid that is being used in key applicationssuch as water treatment, the reduction of mercury emissions, fire safety, energy storage and generation, production of pharmaceuticals and enhanced quality rubber.

It is never naturally found in its elemental form but rather in inorganic compounds, also known as bromides, and in natural organo-bromine compounds. These are found in soils, salts, air and seawater.

The 28th chemical element essential for human life

There are 92 naturally occurring chemical elements in the universe. 28 of them are essential for human life.

In 2014, Prof Billy Hudson of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and his team of researchers added bromine as the 28th chemical element to the list.

Their study, published in the journal Cell, revealed that bromine is essential for tissue development in all animals, from primitive sea creatures to humans.¹

“Without bromine, there are no animals. That’s the discovery.”
– Billy Hudson, Ph.D. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine


Essential for tissue architecture

The foundation for this finding lies in the 1980s, when researchers found that certain patients had defective collagen-IV, an essential protein for tissue development. Since then, multiple patient groups have been shown to be bromine deficient. Bromine supplementation may improve the health of patients on dialysis or total parenteral nutrition (TPN), for example.

The answer lies in the enzyme peroxidasin. Ionic bromide is an important co-factor for this enzyme, which enables peroxidasin to form the sulfilimine bond and thus build collagen-IV.

Implications for human disease

This fundamental discovery has important implications for human disease. For example, Bromine supplementationmay improve the health of patients on dialysis and of people which are on a  total parenteral nutrition diet.


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