How little ”nano-machines” inside the body operateDecember 20th, 2008 - 4:24 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, December 20 (ANI): A team of researchers from the university of Montreal and the University of Chicago claims to have made a discovery that can improve scientists understanding of ion channels, which are akin to little ”nano-machines” or ”nano-valves” inside the body.
The discovery attains significance as ion channels, when malfunction, can cause genetic illnesses that attack muscles, the central nervous system, and the heart.
Reporting their work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers said that they had developed a new method to detect the movement of single proteins that control the ion exchange between the cells and their environment.
According to background information in the research article, these proteins open and close much like an iris in a camera, and thereby control the movement of ions between the cells and their environment, which allows the transmission of electrical signals along our nerve cells.
The article further states that these valves are about a million times smaller than the pupil of a human eye.
The researchers insist that their new technique can help measure one single ion channel at the time, and investigate how different parts inside the ion channels communicate.
“Our discovery will help advance the basic understanding of ion channels. These membrane proteins mark a major drug target, since they play a central role in the entire body and mutations in their genes cause many severe genetic illnesses,” says Rikard Blunck, a professor from the University of Montreal’’s Department of Physics, and one of the lead researchers.
For their study, the researchers investigated potassium channels built out of four identical subunits, which form a pore through the membrane that can open and close in order to allow or block ion conduction.
Their study solved a long debate over whether the four subunits of a K+ channel function independently or in a concerted action.
With a view to determining that question, the researchers developed a fluorescence spectroscopy technique that allowed distinguishing between the subunits so that one could follow the movement of each of the four subunits, information that was lost in previous measurements.
The team observed that the four molecules act together, which explains why no intermediate steps are found in the electrical current measured in electrophysiological experiments. (ANI)
- Researchers track ion exchange to understand genetic disorders better - Dec 19, 2008
- Protein pores help us sense hot temperatures - Mar 05, 2012
- Scientists devise part-human, part-machine transistor - Jun 03, 2010
- Male, female parts in plants 'talk in the same way as cells do in your brain' - Mar 18, 2011
- Graphene films can act as artificial membrane to speed up DNA sequencing - Sep 11, 2010
- Scientists unlock secret of cellular communication - May 02, 2011
- Eavesdropping on cells' chats with nano-sensors - Jul 18, 2011
- Scientists cite mutation as cause of inherited pain disorder - Jun 10, 2010
- Scientists use artificial, cell-like 'honey pots' to lure, trap deadly viruses - Mar 03, 2011
- Boffins uncover mysterious workings of cholera bacteria - Jul 29, 2010
- Pulses of light might one day keep diseased hearts beating - Nov 13, 2010
- Scientists one step closer to a drug treatment for cystic fibrosis - Oct 13, 2010
- Structure of 'temple of the mind' unlocked - Nov 30, 2009
- Soon, vaccinations at the speed of light - courtesy lasers - Jul 30, 2010
- Some nerve cells that make us itch also make us feel pain, finds study - May 03, 2011
Tags: acti, central nervous system, department of physics, drug target, electrical signals, genetic illnesses, human eye, ion channel, ion channels, ion conduction, ion exchange, membrane proteins, nano machines, national academy of sciences, nerve cells, potassium channels, proceedings of the national academy, proceedings of the national academy of sciences, research article, university of montreal