Nervous system discovery could inform stroke, pain therapies

March 7, 2018, Oregon Health & Science University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

New research published in the journal Nature for the first time reveals the atomic structure of a key molecular component of the nervous system.

Scientists at OHSU used advanced to ascertain the resting state of an acid-sensing ion channel. "They are really important that are spread throughout the body," said senior author Eric Gouaux, Ph.D., senior scientist with the OHSU Vollum Institute and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "People have pursued them as targets for stroke therapies, and they clearly have important roles in pain transduction."

Ion channels create tiny openings in the membrane of cells throughout the body, allowing the transmission of signals in the nervous system. Acid-sensing ion channels are believed to play a role in pain sensation as well as psychiatric disorders. OHSU scientists expect the will spur new research and development into therapeutic agents targeting the channel.

For example, in 2017 researchers in Australia discovered a small protein that appeared to block acid-sensing ion channels in the brain of rodents, potentially a useful treatment to minimize brain damage after stroke.

The new research examined acid-sensing ion channels in isolation. Scientists said the next phase of the research will involve studying the channels embedded within tissue to better understand how the they interact with other key proteins within the cellular membrane.

"To fix a car, you need to understand what the engine looks like," said lead author Nate Yoder, a researcher in the Gouaux Lab.

The study published in the journal Nature, brings into focus the full range of motion for the channel, as the desensitized and open states previously had been revealed in research published in 2009 and 2014.

Explore further: Operational mechanism of the ‘acid-sensing ion channel’ that recognizes internal body pain

More information: Nate Yoder et al, Gating mechanisms of acid-sensing ion channels, Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038/nature25782

Related Stories

Operational mechanism of the ‘acid-sensing ion channel’ that recognizes internal body pain

August 31, 2016
Professor Byung-Chang Suh's research team from the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), South Korea, succeeded in identifying a new operational mechanism ...

Study focuses on atomic structure of the serotonin transporter bound to SSRIs

January 29, 2018
New molecular research shows how chemically diverse drugs used to treat depression and anxiety disorders interact with the protein that transports serotonin in the brain. The discovery by researchers at the OHSU Vollum Institute ...

Research gives new insight into how antidepressants work in the brain

November 8, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Research from Oregon Health & Science University's Vollum Institute, published in the current issue of Nature, is giving scientists a never-before-seen view of how nerve cells communicate with each other. ...

Recommended for you

New technique helps uncover changes in ALS neurons

June 22, 2018
Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered that some neurons affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) display hypo-excitability, using a new method to measure electrical activity in cells, according to a study ...

Broken shuttle may interfere with learning in major brain disorders

June 22, 2018
Unable to carry signals based on sights and sounds to the genes that record memories, a broken shuttle protein may hinder learning in patients with intellectual disability, schizophrenia, and autism.

Watching stem cells repair spinal cord in real time

June 22, 2018
Monash University researchers have restored movement and regenerated nerves using stem cells in zebra fish where the spinal cord is severely damaged.

Scientists discover fundamental rule of brain plasticity

June 21, 2018
Our brains are famously flexible, or "plastic," because neurons can do new things by forging new or stronger connections with other neurons. But if some connections strengthen, neuroscientists have reasoned, neurons must ...

Scientists discover how brain signals travel to drive language performance

June 21, 2018
Effective verbal communication depends on one's ability to retrieve and select the appropriate words to convey an intended meaning. For many, this process is instinctive, but for someone who has suffered a stroke or another ...

Waking up is hard to do: Prefrontal cortex implicated in consciousness

June 21, 2018
Philosophers have pondered the nature of consciousness for thousands of years. In the 21st century, the debate over how the brain gives rise to our everyday experience continues to puzzle scientists. To help, researchers ...

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.