Mary S. Gin
DESIGN AND SYNTHESIS OF AN ATP-ACTIVATED TRANSMEMBRANE ION CHANNEL NERVE
Nerve signaling is often referred to as a form of electrical signaling. This is somewhat misleading, however, as nerve signaling does not result from the movement of electrons along a wire but rather from control of concentrations of charged ions on the two sides of cellular membranes. When a nerve signal is propagating, membrane-spanning ion channel proteins open to allow ions across the membrane. This mode of signaling is pervasive in biological systems and is a critical component of cellular communication.
Professor Gin’s research is focused on the preparation of synthetic compounds that mimic the properties of ion channel proteins using signals of her own design. By harnessing such activity with organic compounds that are more robust than proteins, she aims to achieve truly nanoscale devices in which the constituent components communicate via biomimetic signaling. During her Center appointment, she will study the interaction of ATP, nature’s energy source, with a compound that can serve as a channel opening. Using ATP to trigger the opening of a synthetic ion channel has implications for the development of artificial systems that can perform such complex tasks as sensing, desalination, and site-specific drug delivery.