Respiratory therapists know their cystic fibrosis patients are living longer and longer lives, but to keep that trend going, new treatments are needed. This is especially true for women with the disease, who tend to have higher mortality rates and shorter lifespans.
Researchers from several U.S. universities believe they have uncovered biological mechanisms that may help explain why women are more affected, and the finding could lead to new treatments.
In a study that zeroed in on the KCNE3-KCNQ1 complex in the ion transport system important to the transport of chloride ions, which is impaired in people with CF, they have gained new insights into how the channel may be disrupted by estrogen. Specifically, when inhibited by high concentrations of estrogen, ion flow is impaired, allowing bacterial infections to take hold.
“This is really the golden era for the field of membrane protein structural biology. We are starting to really understand how these proteins are working together and what the architectures look like,” study author Wade Van Horn, from Arizona State University, was quoted as saying in a recent press release. “In the long term, a better understanding of how membrane proteins work will help to make CF and other diseases more easily treatable.”