The story of Michael Jackson
The tragic story of Michael Jackson and the specific cause of his death has befuddled the medical community for months. As students of BIOL 13100 we believe that we have stumbled upon a possible prognosis for his death. It is accepted that Michael Jackson’s physician administered an anesthetic tranquilizer at his $30 million estate resulting in respiratory acidosis, the acidification of blood. Through our studies we understand that the presence of an anesthetic affects the pons and medulla regions of the brain, collaboratively known as the respiratory center of the brain. This portion of the brain has the vital task of regulating respiration and accomplishes this undertaking by measuring the pH of cerebrospinal fluid. Cerebrospinal fluid has a variable pH that changes in response to increased CO2 concentration in the blood. CO2 reacts with water to produce carbonic acid. Carbonic acid then falls into equilibrium with the hydrogen ion and bicarbonate, this equilibrium reaction being catalyzed by carbonic anhydrase present in red blood cells. HCO3- is then transported out of the blood cell via a antiporter that brings in Cl- and takes out HCO3-. HCO3- will defuse across the blood-brain barrier into the cerebrospinal fluid until it reaches a concentration that is at equilibrium with the HCO3- remaining in the blood. The protons that dissociate from this acid determine the pH of the fluid, which should be equal to that of the blood.
Blood pH varies in part by the concentration of CO2, which dissolves in blood plasma to form the bicarbonate ion (HCO3-). Under normal conditions, the concentration of carbon dioxide determines the pH of the blood. Because CO2 crosses the blood-brain barrier, high CO2 also lowers the pH of the cerebrospinal fluid. When the respiratory center senses that there is a drop in pH, it causes ventilation to increase in rate and depth of breathing thereby reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide and increasing the pH. In Michael Jackson’s situation, however, the respiratory center was not functioning normally due to the presence of an anesthetic. Due to its reduced function, the respiratory center could not detect the drop in pH and thus did not stimulate hyperventilation. Since normal ventilation did not occur, there was buildup of carbon dioxide in the body because of the carbon dioxide resulting from metabolism. This buildup caused the pH of the blood to continue to drop. Hemoglobin in the blood also changes conformation in relation to pH and as pH decreases, hemoglobin begins to take on a configuration that is more receptive to the release of oxygen. As Michael Jackson’s blood pH dropped, his hemoglobin changed to a conformation that favored the premature release of oxygen. When paramedics administered oxygenated air, the hemoglobin in his blood did not absorb it in the concentrations that were needed to sustain his life.
Work Done by: Muhammad Soofi, Andy Lin, Kushani Shah, Meghan Buhrman
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