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June 25, 2018

Physiological process is the act of one cell communicating to another cell. This form of communication can be local or global. The most common form of physiological communication occurs via electrical signals known as action potentials. Ions move in and out of neurons through intermembrane proteins known as channels. The movement of ions allow for a brain cell (or neuron) to become polarized and, as a result, a signal is propagated from an affecter neuron until the target neuron is reached. Action potentials are also generated in cardiac muscle cells. Without ion channels the generation of action potentials would not be possible. Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCNs) channels are found in both cardiac tissue and neurons and are central to physiological communication. The current generated by this type of channel is known as a “funny” current, this is due to the nature of the channel opening once the cell is hyperpolarized. These channels are regulated by cell polarity and second messengers such as cAMP and cGMP. In the brain, these channels have been found in regions such as the hippocampus where they are believed to play a role in neural plasticity. In cardiac tissues, these channels are involved in generating and controlling the rhythm of our hearts. HCN channels do this via a pacemaker current. Mutations affecting these channels have been associated with epilepsy and cardiac rhythm disorders. The presented image displays the beauty of this odd but important channel (PBD:5U6O)