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Zooming in on protein to prevent kidney stones

Researchers have applied Nobel prize-winning microscope technology to uncover an ion channel structure that could lead to new treatments for kidney stones. In a recent study, researchers revealed atomic-level details of the protein that serves as a passageway for calcium across kidney cell membranes. Approximately 80 percent of kidney stones are comprised of calcium salts. They are extremely painful to pass and, depending on size and location, can require surgery to remove. Ion channels that span kidney cell membranes help reabsorb calcium from the urine before it can form kidney stones. The new study is the first to show molecular details of the essential kidney calcium channel, called TRPV5, in its closed form. The study also reveals how inhibitor molecules attach to and close the channel, leaving calcium stranded in the urine where it can form kidney stones.

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