Man the pumps

Drugs can overcome mutations in proteins

Diseases can occur when membrane proteins function incorrectly or not at all, and drugs often work by affecting how these proteins function.

For example, researchers found that diabetes in some newborn babies was caused by mutations in a potassium ion channel that affected the secretion of insulin from cells in the pancreas.

In affected babies, the potassium channels are stuck open, but researchers found a drug that can close the channels and trigger the release of insulin.

The drug can be given as a tablet, which means that children with this form of the disease are spared the regular insulin injections used to treat diabetes.

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Proteins’ in January 2014.

Cell biology, Health, infection and disease, Biotechnology and engineering
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development