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Medtech Impact on Wellness

Manipulating ion channels may save lives. Researcher Saverio Gentile explains how. He tells listeners about exciting research on biochemical pathways in cancer cells in the human body. He and colleagues are looking at tumor cells versus normal cells regarding an understudied cell mechanism called voltage-gated ion channels.

Listen and learn

  • Why a key characteristic of cancer cells—proliferation—may easily be inhibited through this research;
  • How channels work in normal cells to regulate highly-sensitive gradients for ions like sodium, calcium, chloride, and potassium;
  • What’s significant about how these channels appear to evolve and work in cancer cells; and
  • How one study has shown a reduction of tumor growth by manipulating these channels with a common drug.

Saverio Gentile, PhD, is a research assistant professor with the College of Medicine at Chicago Medicine with the University of Illinois and is a member of the Translational Oncology Program.

He takes listeners on a deep dive in the latest on cancer treatment utilizing an understudied cellular mechanism as it relates to cancer causes: voltage-gated ion channels. As he shares facts about cancer cells, he describes these channels as interspersed on cell membranes and in cellular organs. They’ve been historically studied in terms of cardio myocyte function and the neuron—cancer cells are shifting front and center in Saverio Gentile’s work.

These channels work throughout the body to maintain the appropriate gradient of ions. He adds, “the other wonderful thing about this class of proteins is that they don’t really work alone . . . like a concert, basically they work together.” Through research, they are finding out how to change the “action potential” of some of these channels in cancer cells.

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He gets specific with one project that manipulates the potassium channel in ovarian and breast cancers to “push it in a corner,” and then hits it with another drug that kills the cancer cell.

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He describes other fascinating ways altering these channels may lead to effective therapies and discusses how students and other researchers can participate in the conversation around this work. Listen in for more hopeful news about cancer treatments.

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