Electrical excitability is the hallmark of the primary vital organs, the brain and the heart. Transient changes in the electrical potential across the cell membrane are the result of a highly coordinated activity of ion channels and transporters. These electrical signals convey information over long distances and initiate complex events such as memory and learning and cardiac muscle contraction; they are also the basis of the spontaneous rhythmic activity in the brain and in the heart. Dysfunction of ion channels is responsible for several major congenital and acquired diseases, such as epilepsy, deafness and sudden cardiac death.
The IAP consortium consists of 7 research teams form Belgian universities (Leuven, Antwerpen, Gent, Hasselt, Liège, Mons) and 2 European partners (Utrecht, Bristol). The project encompasses a joint program to investigate - from the molecular level to the in vivo situation - the expression, function and regulation of specific ion channels, transporters and ionotropic receptors underlying normal and abnormal excitability in the heart and CNS. The research activities are organized into 5 work packages (WPs) focusing on major mechanistic aspects of excitability:
WP1: Molecular architecture of K+ channels and their role in excitability
WP2: Normal and abnormal pacemaker activity
WP3: Calcium handling and feedback on membrane excitability
WP4: Cell-to-cell communication
WP5: Ion channel remodeling, plasticity and membrane excitability
The UA partner is involved with WP1, 2 and 5 and participates in all network-wide activities (e.g. common technology platforms, training and exchange programs)