With this year’s Ion Channel Retreat rapidly approaching things are starting to buzz around the Aurora office with anticipation of this year’s meeting. Helping to build some of the excitement at the office is some pretty interesting ion channel research recently published in Cell. If you though that ion channels were mostly important in neural and muscle function guess again, researchers have found that ion channels seem to significantly contribute to your length of life and metabolism.
In the paper, the researchers found that knock-out mice lacking the pain stimulated ion channel TRPV1 lived 16% longer than their wild-type counterparts. Not only that, but the mice were less likely to become obese when fed a high fat diet. Whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute, so you’re telling me I can not feel pain, gorge myself on potato chips and not get fat, AND live longer?! Researchers saw that increased activity of the TRPV1 channel set off a calcium cascade which inhibited insulin secretion in the pancreas through production of a hormone called CGRP. When CGRP was blocked in older mice, their metabolism began to look like that of younger mice; researchers guessed that chronic inflammation in the elderly mice caused an over active TRPV1 channel affecting metabolism and longevity.
However, don’t go holding your breath for a magic pill that lets you eat ice cream for every meal until you’re 130; drug trials have been done for TRPV1 antagonists where participants were unable to sense dangerously hot stimuli or developed hypothermia. There are other drugs being developed to block CGRP, however, the safety of these drugs haven’t been determined yet.
I might not live forever, but I am looking forward to the exciting ion channel topics being presented at this year’s retreat. The preliminary speaking program is now online, so check it out here. I know I’m excited to hear some of the talks, and I’ll see you there, I’ll be the guy in the back with the bag of chips.