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Revolution in understanding of ion channel regulation
Date:1/30/2008

A study at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago published this week in the online version of Biophysical Journal proposes that bubbles may control the opening and closing of ion channels. This new understanding of the channels that control much of life in health and disease provides a vital piece of the molecular puzzle.

The work of experts in mathematics, physics and molecular biology at Rush has produced a new explanation for how ion channels open and close. This discovery provides a springboard to a better understanding of many diseases and their treatment.

The body, like so many other mechanical and computing systems, is controlled by the on and off response of its smallest components. Life is controlled by switches and valves, in the same way that computers and cars are, but lifes valves are proteins that open and close, providing gates for pathways for ions to enter cells, says Robert S. Eisenberg, PhD, professor and chairman of molecular biophysics and physiology at Rush University. The problem is, if anything goes wrong with these ion channel gates, disease results or, worse death.

For years, researchers have been searching for the mechanism that opens and closes the pore-like ion channels that are an integral part of each cell membrane. These atomic-size channels control the movement of ions, or charged electrical particles, across the cell membrane. This, in turn, controls the function of the cell. An enormous range of biological functions are controlled by these channels, and failures in these channels produce many of the diseases that plague mankind.

Through rigorous analysis, we propose that bubbles form and break inside the tiny pores of the channel and that these bubbles are the gates that have been long sought by so many scientists, says Eisenberg. The bubbles create a vacuum that cannot conduct electricity as the surrounding water does; therefore, the channel is effectively in the off position. When the
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Contact: Kim Waterman
Kimberly_Waterman@rush.edu
312-942-7820
Rush University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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