Winter
2011

Discovery

Researchers capture image of potassium channel

Breakthrough of the year’redraws evolutionary picture

Researchers led by Mark Chance, PhD, director of the school's Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics, have captured the first high-resolution image of a K+ channel, giving them a detailed look at the mechanisms that control heart functions, nerve signaling and how medications work.

Using chemical labeling and mass spectrometry-based techniques, the researchers took the picture of the channel—which controls the flow of potassium ions between cells—in its open state. These same techniques have already helped investigators better understand G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs)—signaling molecules that serve as targets for more than half of all pharmaceutical drugs.

"This can help create a better understanding of how modern medicine works, which could increase pharmaceutical efficiency and enhance the quality of countless cardiovascular-related drugs," says Daniel Simon, MD, the Herman K. Hellerstein Professor of Cardiovascular Research at the school and chief of cardiovascular medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. The team also includes instructor Sayan Gupta, PhD, and a group from the University of Oxford. Chance and the center have received a $1.1 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to support additional research.