Researchers make exciting discoveries in non-excitable cells

October 17, 2013 by Bill Hathaway

It has been 60 years since scientists discovered that sodium channels create the electrical impulses crucial to the function of nerve, brain, and heart cells—all of which are termed "excitable." Now researchers at Yale and elsewhere are discovering that sodium channels also play key roles in so-called non-excitable cells.

In the Oct. 16 issue of the journal Neuron, Yale neuroscientists Stephen Waxman and Joel Black review nearly a quarter-century of research that shows sodium channels in cells that do not transmit may nonetheless play a role in immune system function, migration of cells, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer.

"This insight has opened up new avenues of research in a variety of pathologies," Waxman said.

For instance, Waxman's lab has begun to study the functional role of voltage-gated sodium channels in non-excitable glial cells within the spinal cord and brain. They are currently investigating whether in these non-excitable cells may participate in the formation of glial scars, thereby inhibiting regeneration of nerve after traumatic injury to the spinal cord or brain.

Explore further: Engineering excitable cells for studies of bioelectricity and cell therapy

More information: www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273(13)00810-6

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Why the lights don't dim when we blink

January 19, 2017

Every few seconds, our eyelids automatically shutter and our eyeballs roll back in their sockets. So why doesn't blinking plunge us into intermittent darkness and light? New research led by the University of California, Berkeley, ...

Curb your immune enthusiasm

January 19, 2017

Normally when we think of viruses, from the common cold to HIV, we want to boost people's immunity to fight them. But for scientists who develop therapeutic viruses (to, for example, target cancer cells or correct gene deficiencies) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.