Hello from the Pacific Northwest!

     Yes, let's focus on the hometown of Amazon, Boeing, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation et al Fortunate!!! Where else could you work smarter, play harder?!  What could reenergize you for another project quicker than a rendezvous with Mt. Rainier, Olympic Rainforest, Cape Flattery? Perhaps an electrifying ablution in Diablo Lake, just a few hours of scenic driving away.  What could inspire you more than 1812 Overture at Benaroya Hall?  Possibly meeting Elton John & Billi Joel Face 2 Face at KeyArena.  What could reboot you faster than flying Unlimited on Lake Washington and watching how the Blue Angels execute Nesterov loops above your real, recession-proof, estate? Probably a double black diamond run at Whistler after climbing the Forbidden Peak of the North Cascades.  And after all your adrenaline is gone, what could relax you more than sailing to the San Juan Islands with your family? Maybe a tour of Washington wineries on the way back to Seattle.

    To us - scientists - the most addictive local attraction is the intellectual atmosphere of the Emerald City.  One of Top 10 Tech Cities on Earth, the brainiest city in the U.S. hosts one of the world's largest research universities, UW, several smaller universities and colleges, and numerous private research institutions, including Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Institute for Systems Biology, and other top-notch biomedical research centers fighting diabetes, obesity, as well as infectious and cardiovascular diseases, which devastate humanity more than do wars.

    So we joined Pacific Northwest Research Institute, PNRI, and UW to accelerate our biomedical research, including studies of normal and pathogenic mutant ATP/ADP-sensing potassium (KATP) channels.  Coded by ABCC8/9 & KCNJ8/11 genes, these channels couple the metabolic ATP/ADP index with the membrane potential, and thus excitability, of many vital cells, e.g. insulin-secreting cells, certain central neurons, atrial cardiomyocytes, endotheliocytes, vascular and nonvascular smooth muscle cells.  Abnormal activity and/or altered surface expression of these most advanced, hetero-octameric metabolic sensors can cause or predispose to neonatal diabetes, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, developmental delay, epilepsy, congenital hyperinsulinism, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, vascular disease and even sudden cardiac death.  Understanding the biophysical and biochemical mechanisms of KATP variants deepens our understanding of the pathophysiology of these diseases and clarifies how these and other members of the two largest families of eukaryotic membrane transport proteins function to contribute to a broad spectrum of fundamental physiologic processes, such as hormone release, control of glucose and energy homeostasis, regulation of vascular tone, cytoprotection under hypoxia and other catabolic conditions, transport of a wide variety of substrates, including metabolic products, etc.  Revealing how endogenous and exogenous inhibitors and stimulators of KATP channels interact with their cell type specific regulatory subunits (the ABCC8-encoded high affinity sulfonylurea receptor, SUR1, and the ABCC8-encoded SUR2A/B isoforms specifically binding potassium channel openers) may help develop new drugs and novel therapeutic approaches for better treatment of KATP channelopathies, as well as other ABC transporter- or Kir-linked maladies.

     The Babenko Laboratory of Molecular Physiology, Biophysics and Pharmacology is located on the third and fourth floors of the PNRI building, a top of the First Hill, just a few steps from Swedish and Harborview Medical Centers. The Bryan Laboratory of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry is also on the third floor of the same building that has vivarium and other research facilities normally found at top interdisciplinary bio- medical research institutes, plus a small clinic. The collaboration born at Baylor College of Medicine is growing in Seattle.  We affiliate with the UW Diabetes Research Center, DRC, and cooperate with Departments of Medicine, Physiology & Biophysics, and Pharmacology, as well as Diabetes & Obesity Center of Excellence and several other research centers of UW Medicine.  Moreover, we collaborate with many human geneticists and physicians in Americas and Eurasia.  If you are interested in joining our interdisciplinary international research program please check out these announcements.

     I promise to spend another holiday evening with a Starbucks Grande to better illustrate where and how we work, learn and play. Right now I better run to rescue my wife Ilona and her parents from our daughter Tamara, who after circumnavigating Queen Anne, recording in surround sound (using several mobile devices) The Xmas Song of Larus argentatus "Seattle never sleeps" and enjoying the Picasso Collection from Paris at the Seattle Art Museum wants to continue the Xmas Eve with a vegetarian supper at the Space Needle. Imagine our New Year Night...

     Happy 2011!

     Andrey P. Babenko, M.D., Ph.D.

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