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Glycogen synthase is one of many enzymes found within the human body. An enzyme is a type of protein which works to catalyze, or speed up, various chemical reactions within the body. Glycogen synthase helps to convert glucose, or blood sugar, into glycogen. Glucose is a simple sugar used by the cells of the body to create energy. Glycogen is a carbohydrate which serves as the primary storage form of glucose and is found mostly in the liver.
The glycogen enzyme converts glucose by converting polymer chains. A polymer is a group of molecules which are strung together to form long chains of molecules. These polymers are capable of forming structures of various sizes. Glycogen synthase works to convert short polymer chains of glucose molecules into much longer chains of glycogen molecules, which are better suited for storage by the human body.
While glycogen synthase is always present in the body, its concentrations in the bloodstream are highest within one hour of moderately strenuous exercise. This enzyme plays a key role in the process known as glycogenesis. Glycogenesis is a process in which the individual molecules of glucose are added to the glycogen chains in preparation for storage by the cells.
Medical research involving the precise functioning of glycogen synthase is an ongoing process. So far, animal testing has suggested that this enzyme could play a major role in regulating the body's levels of both glucose and glycogen. The process believed to activate this regulation ability is called phosphorylation.
Phosphorylation involves adding a chemical known as phosphate to an organic molecule, such as a protein molecule. This action creates the ability to either activate or deactivate several different protein enzymes. This is of great importance since this ability can work to either cause or prevent such diseases as diabetes or cancer.
Genetic mutations can cause glycogen synthase abnormalities, particularly deficiencies involving this particular enzyme. This condition is known as Glycogen Storage Disease Type 0. This type of genetic mutation can cause what is known as fasting hypoglycemia, or insufficient blood sugar levels after a prolonged period of time without food. Unfortunately, these same patients are at risk of hyperglycemia, or having too much sugar in their blood, after they do eat. There are two primary versions of this condition, with one primarily affecting the muscles of the body, while the other version affects the liver.
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