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The end of 'Pump Fiction'

* Aarhus-university.jpgNew basic insights into the workings of a biomolecular mechanism crucial to life: the calcium pumps in our cells: Our cells move energy and matter to the places it is needed. But how do they do this in real time, and seen from the perspective of a single molecule? A Danish research team has successfully uncovered new basic insights into this invisible world, by doing experiments that track how a single molecule of the protein 'engine' known as the calcium pump works.

For the first time it has been possible to look directly at one of the most fundamental engines of the body: The ion pumps that power the cell's transport and signalling systems. These functions underpin biomolecular mechanisms crucial to you, me and every other living creature.

The calcium-pump may not look like a lot. Each pump only measures a few nanometers, millionths of millimetres, in each direction, and sit in the cell membranes of our bodies. But despite its diminutive size, it is crucial to life. This pump is the reason that our muscles can contract, and that neurons can send signals. If the tiny pump stopped working, cells would stop communicating. Without it, we could neither move nor think. This is why cells use so much of their energy - about a fourth of the body's fuel known as ATP - to keep the pumps running.

There are many things that we still do not know about the structure and function of this vital pump. Knowledge about the pump is essential to understand the energy balance and other important functions in the body.

14th November 2017

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