University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers have uncovered a previously unknown molecular pathway that is critical to understanding cardiac arrhythmia and other heart muscle problems. Understanding the basic science of heart and muscle function could open the door to new treatments. The study, published recently in the journal Cell, examined the electrical impulses that coordinate contraction in heart and skeletal muscles, controlling heart rate, for example. Unraveling how the body regulates these impulses is key to understanding serious health conditions such as paralysis, muscle relaxation and heart arrhythmia.
Researchers in the Cell study examined ion channels membrane proteins that allow the electrical charges to flow into and out of the cell. The number and location of channels on the cell's surface are critical to the heart's rhythm. The University of Maryland School of Medicine scientists found a new, previously unknown intracellular trafficking pathway that controls the number and location of the ion channels on the cell surface, affecting the passage of electrical charges and controlling the beat of the heart and other muscle activity.
Ion channels are proteins that form pores at the cell's surface. The pores open with careful regulation, allowing the passage of ions like potassium, sodium or chloride. These ions carry distinct electrical charges, and their regulated passage into and out of the cell stimulate and coordinate contractions such as the heart's rhythm.
"This study illuminates a new pathway for therapeutic intervention," says Paul Welling, M.D., professor of physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Drugs that interfere with or augment this signal may be used to control the number and location of ion channels in such a way to fight arrhythmia and other muscle disorders, potentially saving lives."
"Dr. Welling's research is an example of the world class basic
|Contact: Karen Robinson|
University of Maryland Medical Center