December 31, 2008

New Insight into How Cells Get Nutrients

Researchers in Belgium have uncovered an important new way cells locate nutrients. The new mechanism is similar to the way cells receive messages from hormones.

Every living thing is made up of cells that communicate with each other and the outside world. For example, receptors on skin cells indicate pain or pressure and transmit that information to cells inside the body that then create a reaction to it. Cells also transport proteins carrying nutrients to the inside of cells, where they are used. In addition, transreceptors can simultaneously sense and transport food.

Now researchers at VIB in Belgium have for the first time shown how transreceptors work. Also called Gap1, the transreceptors transport amino acids to the inside of the cell and also signal that food is present. It uses the same site to recognize the food as it does to carry the food.

Experts say this new information is vital to the development of medicines because about half of them are transmitted to cells by receptors.

SOURCE: VIB and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven press release, 2008