A new model to explain the movement of molecules in the human body

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Different molecules are travelling through our bodies all the time. Science is trying to figure out how their pathways are established and why some molecules can pass where other cannot. Now a new research from University of Queensland made a big step towards understanding how do molecules travel through the human body.

Molecules are a lot like sheep – they are situated close together and by opening and closing the gates it is possible to control how many of them come or leave. Image credit: Nilfanion via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Molecules are a lot like sheep – they are situated close together and by opening and closing the gates it is possible to control how many of them come or leave. Image credit: Nilfanion via Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-4.0

Molecule movement and disruptions of it contribute to a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s. However, as for now the knowledge about how molecules move through our bodies is rather limited. Understanding these mechanisms would help scientists explaining what can disturb them and cause diseases. Because molecules have to leave and enter cells, they have to pass through the “gates”, but not every molecule can do so. In other words, these gates open and close precisely to regulate the movement of the molecules as the body needs it to be.

Scientists compared this process to sheep moving through the gate. They built a mathematical model, which aims to explain why sometimes only few “sheep” can go through and in other occasions – many. According to Professor Geoff Goodhill, lead author of the study, ions are at the centre of the process. He said: “Many key features of cell behaviour are controlled by ion channels — pores in cell membranes that open and close. A lot of factors determine whether the gates are open, closed, or somewhere in between”. This new model explains how one of these three states is selected.

This research was particularly challenging because of unpredictability of the behaviour of ion channels. Sometimes they would open and close slowly and sometimes they would show rapid kinetics. However, the model was developed successfully because scientists focused on one type of ion channel and modelled basic biophysical events that control ion channel opening. Results are applicable to other channels as well.

This study did not produce exciting results. It is only the beginning of a more elaborate research that will take many years to finish, but ultimately will lead to a better understanding of ion channel behaviour and movement of molecules inside of human body.

Source: uq.edu.au