Researchers learn from natural ion channels to design new ones

from the Natural-Nanomachines dept.
An article in Science News ("Channel Surfing: Atomic-resolution snapshots illuminate cellular pores that control ion flow", by John Travis, 9 March 2002) describes the work of researchers who have been uncovering the details of the structure and function of ion channels — protein complexes that act as natural, highly-specific atom sorting devices.

In addition to revealing the operating principles of natural sorters, the research has provided insights into the design of de novo sorter designs, as shown in another online article on the Nature Science Update website ("New channel built: Chemists copy from cells to make a tunnel for salt", by Philip Ball, 13 March 2002), which describes work by George Gokel and colleagues at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, who created a synthetic peptide-based channel can be opened and closed by applying a voltage.

Additional details of research into ion channels and other types of natural atom sorters can be found in Nanodot posts from 17 January 2002 and 2 November 2001.

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