Study of sharks, skates reveals new insights into molecular underpinnings of nervous system

Researchers are reporting new insights into the molecular underpinnings of the electrosensory organs that allow sharks and skates to detect electrical currents in their environment, an ability that is important to their survival. The scientists studied specialized proteins called ion channels to learn more about how information flows through the nervous system of these organisms and compared how these ion channels differed between them. In sharks, the researchers found that these ion channels are tuned to help the organism attack prey, whereas in skates, the structures are tuned to help the organism find food, friends, and mates. As mutations in ion channels have been linked to a variety of disorders including cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, and paralysis, the study could lead to a better understanding of how the human nervous system controls pain and other sensations, they say.  The study, published in Nature, was partly funded by NHLBI.