The Science of Pain
Physical suffering starts at the cellular level; but what can we do to stop it?
Using X-ray crystallography, Liz and her team were able to get atomic images of the ion channel in both an open and closed position. They were even able to capture an image of the channel with Prozac bound to it. Prozac is an antidepressant and is not designed to interact with this protein, so it binds very weakly. But by chemically modifying the drug, the team could potentially improve binding and blocking of the channel, thus opening up new avenues for the design of next-generation painkillers.
This is an exciting moment for research into pain and pain visualisation. Thanks to Diamond’s bright beams and the bright minds behind them, we now have an atomic picture of how this ion channel is structured. That brings us one giant leap closer towards developing drugs that can hook into the nooks and crannies of the channel and keep it firmly closed.
But Liz and the team aren’t done yet; they now want to move on to decoding other ion channels, some of which are responsible for migraine and a host of genetic diseases. It seems that these tiny cellular elements have a big impact on our lives, helping to determine how we sense the world around us. The work of Liz and her team provides a vital framework that scientists can build on. Because of them, we know what the target looks like; now we just need to take aim and fire.
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