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I'm in my last year of high school and doing a research assignment on thermoregulation. In the excellence level exemplar for the standard, a student made the statement:

Once the body's internal temperature is well above the optimum range, important enzymes start to denature, phospholipids start to destabilise, and cell membrane lipids begin to dissolve. As a result of this, important organs in the trunk of the body are unable to carry out important metabolic processes. If the temperature continues to rise it causes tissue damage which could cause disability depending on its severity. It also causes the hypothalamic thermostat to break down, meaning the body can no longer have control of the core temperature.

However, I have been unable to find any sources which mention destabilisation of phospholipids or the dissolving of membrane lipids. I have also not found anything on tissue damage or the cessation of the hypothalamic thermostat.

Are these things true? And if so, could someone please direct me to a reliable source which states this?

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1 Answer 1

If you supply heat to a system, the entropy increases which results in destabilization of order. This is a general thermodynamic principle and you can refer any basic book on that topic. However, it is not essential that all molecules would be affected equally. There are heat-stable enzymes in thermophiles such as Thermus aquaticus which are resistant to heat. Also the membranes in these organisms are made up of stronger and more rigid isoprenoid lipids.

Even in mesophiles, lipid membranes with higher content of cholesterol are rigid and more resistant to thermal movements.

On Breakdown of thermostat: The body can regulate the temperature only in a certain range; at higher temperatures these mechanisms will fail as well.

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