ABSTRACT: ION CHANNELS: DISCOVERY, FUNCTION AND ROLE IN MEDICINE AND PHARMACOLOGY We would like to present the abstract of our keynote speaker – Nobel prize laureate Erwin Neher, who is currently a director at the Max-Planck-Institut for biophysical Chemistry.
The concept of bioelectricity emerged in the late 18th century, based on the experiments of Galvani and Volta. 60 years ago Hodgkin & Huxley showed that the nerve impulse is a result of permeability changes of the nerve membrane. This provoked the question what the molecular mechanisms of such permeability changes might be. In 1976 Bert Sakmann and myself were able to show that so-called ion channels – proteins, which gate ion fluxes across membranes- mediate these responses.
Research over the last 40 years has shown, that ion channels are not only present in electrically excitable cells, such as in nerve and muscle, but also in basically all celltypes of our body, mediating a variety of physiological functions. We now know, that they are prime drug targets,and that dysfunction of ion channels underliesa variety of diseases.