New Software Provides Quick Analysis of ion-Channel Activity

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The interpretation of the activity of ion channels -- the protein structures that regulate the flow of electrical current in cells -- can be so difficult and time-consuming that many researchers have simply given up on it.

But comprehending the properties of ion channels, which control the activity of the body's organs, including the brain, is key to understanding normal physiology. It also is critical to understanding various genetic diseases, including cystic fibrosis, as well as some neuromuscular disorders and some cardiac arrythmias.

Now, biophysicists at the University at Buffalo have developed software programs that can perform ion-channel analysis with remarkable efficiency and speed.

The researchers have received a four-year, $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to enhance the programs and to move them from the current UNIX environment to Windows.

The current version of the software may be downloaded from the World Wide Web at http://barrel.med.buffalo.edu

Our software makes analyzing ion channels so much easier and faster that researchers will be able to try things that were too painfully slow to even try before, said Frederick Sachs, Ph.D., professor of biophysical sciences at UB and principal investigator. Co-investigators are Anthony L. Auerbach, Ph.D., associate professor of biophysical sciences at UB, and Qin Feng, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow.

With the new software programs, named QUB, a researcher can discover in minutes how long it takes for an ion channel to change from one conformation to another. Previously, such measurements could have taken months.

According to the UB researchers, this information will provide biophysicists with a powerful tool useful for both basic and applied research.

Sachs explained that better information on these proteins could make a tremendous difference in drug design, particularly for conditions

Contact: Sue Wuetcher
University at Buffalo

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