02 November 2010

youris.com meets Peter Agre

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Peter Agre, American medical doctor, professor, and molecular biologist was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (which he shared with Roderick MacKinnon) for his discovery of aquaporins

In February 2009, Peter Agre was inducted as the 163rd president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the nation's largest scientific organization.

Aquaporins are water-channel proteins that move water molecules through the cell membrane. Aquaporins are "the plumbing system for cells," said Agre. Every cell is primarily water. "But the water doesn’t just sit in the cell, it moves through it in a very organized way. The process occurs rapidly in tissues that have these aquaporins or water channels."

For 100 years, scientists assumed that water leaked through the cell membrane, and some water does. "But the very rapid movement of water through some cells was not explained by this theory," said Agre.

Agre said he discovered aquaporins "by serendipity." His lab had an N.I.H. grant to study the Rh blood group antigen. They isolated the Rh molecule but a second molecule, 28 kilodaltons in size (and therefore called 28K) kept appearing. At first they thought it was a piece of the Rh molecule, or a contaminant, but it turned out to be an undiscovered molecule with unknown function. It was abundant in red blood cells and kidney tubes, and related to proteins of diverse origins, like the brains of fruit flies, bacteria, the lenses of eyes, and plant tissues.

Agre asked John Parker, his hematology professor at the University of North Carolina. Parker said, “Boy, this thing is found in red cells, kidney tubes, plant tissues; have you considered it might be the long-sought water channel?” So Agre said that he followed up Parker's suggestion. If aquaporin could be manipulated, it could potentially solve medical problems such as fluid retention in heart disease and brain edema after stroke.

(Wikipedia.org)

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