Friday, July 09, 2010

targeting the right ion channel

Back in 2000, Oxford researcher Frances Ashcroft published a popular science book that is kind of complementary to my "Life on the Edge", in that it deals with the effect of extreme physical conditions on human physiology, which I had left out of my account of life under extreme conditions. Her book "Life at the extremes" is still in print as a paperback.

Unlike me, however, she's very successfully carried on with her research since then, which addresses ion channels, i.e. the "doors" in the cell membrane that specifically let through certain kinds of charged particles, under certain conditions. Her group has a paper out in science express this month which shows how important it is to address the right kind of channel. To treat a muscle weakness that is often seen in children with neonatal diabetes, the research shows, one needs to target not the muscle version of the mutated ion channel but the brain version. Which has direct implications on how the drugs need to be designed, including the fact that they need to be able to pass the blood-brain barrier.

Reference:

Muscle Dysfunction Caused by a KATP Channel Mutation in Neonatal Diabetes Is Neuronal in Origin
Rebecca H. Clark, James S. McTaggart, Richard Webster, Roope Mannikko, Michaela Iberl, Xiuli Sim, Patrik Rorsman, Maike Glitsch, David Beeson, and Frances M. Ashcroft
Published online July 1 2010; 10.1126/science.1186146 (Science Express Reports)

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