According to a paper that appeared in the journal eLife, researchers have discovered that a new set of proteins called ion channels can help doctors develop new drugs for people suffering from cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.
Ion channels generate electrical signals of the heart by opening a gate for charged ions to cross the cell membrane. They found that ion channels generate the electrical signals of the heart differently than previously thought. For one important channel in the heart, called KCNQ1, the membrane voltage not only causes the channel to open, but also determines the properties of the electrical signals.
KCNQ1 is so important to the heart’s rhythm that there are more than 250 mutations of the channel that have been associated with cardiac arrhythmia. This discovery could lead to new drug therapy for the disorder.