Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Living Fabric
31 January 2012

Living Fabric

As scientists delve ever deeper into the fabric of life, their discoveries hold ever greater medical promise. Cardiac arrhythmia – caused by irregular electrical flow through muscle fibre membranes – claims the lives of 100,000 people in the UK each year. The study of a protein called ankyrin – here stained red in a myofibre (muscle fibre) from rat – could cast light on this syndrome and muscle wasting diseases. Individual filaments in myofibres are thinner than silk, but when bundled and lined-up, they are as thick as a human hair, and can contract to produce a powerful pull. As its name suggests, the protein anchors a membrane around the myofibre, keeping filaments bundled and pulling together. Ankryin also binds other types of protein (here dyed blue and green) at precise locations on the membrane. This ensures smooth flow of electrical pulses helping to keep the heart regular.

Written by Tristan Farrow

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